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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Validated Voters, 2020

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. In Divided We Stand, we discuss how these divides played out in 2020.

At Pew, Ruth Igielnik, Scott Keeter, and Hannah Hartig discuss findings from a study of validated voters:

The 19% of 2020 voters who did not vote in 2016 or 2018 split roughly evenly between the two candidates (49% Biden vs. 47% Trump). However, as with voters overall, there was a substantial age divide within this group. Among those under age 30 who voted in 2020 but not in either of the two previous elections, Biden led 59% to 33%, while Trump won among new or irregular voters ages 30 and older by 55% to 42%. Younger voters also made up an outsize share of these voters: Those under age 30 made up 38% of new or irregular 2020 voters, though they represented just 15% of all 2020 voters....

Here are some of the other key findings from the analysis:
  • Biden made gains with suburban voters. In 2020, Biden improved upon Clinton’s vote share with suburban voters: 45% supported Clinton in 2016 vs. 54% for Biden in 2020. This shift was also seen among White voters: Trump narrowly won White suburban voters by 4 points in 2020 (51%-47%); he carried this group by 16 points in 2016 (54%-38%). At the same time, Trump grew his vote share among rural voters. In 2016, Trump won 59% of rural voters, a number that rose to 65% in 2020.
  • Trump made gains among Hispanic voters. Even as Biden held on to a majority of Hispanic voters in 2020, Trump made gains among this group overall. There was a wide educational divide among Hispanic voters: Trump did substantially better with those without a college degree than college-educated Hispanic voters (41% vs. 30%).
  • Apart from the small shift among Hispanic voters, Joe Biden’s electoral coalition looked much like Hillary Clinton’s, with Black, Hispanic and Asian voters and those of other races casting about four-in-ten of his votes. Black voters remained overwhelmingly loyal to the Democratic Party, voting 92%-8% for Biden.
  • Biden made gains with men, while Trump improved among women, narrowing the gender gap. The gender gap in the 2020 election was narrower than it had been in 2016, both because of gains that Biden made among men and because of gains Trump made among women. In 2020, men were almost evenly divided between Trump and Biden, unlike in 2016 when Trump won men by 11 points. Trump won a slightly larger share of women’s votes in 2020 than in 2016 (44% vs. 39%), while Biden’s share among women was nearly identical to Clinton’s (55% vs. 54%).
  • Biden improved over Clinton among White non-college voters. White voters without a college degree were critical to Trump’s victory in 2016, when he won the group by 64% to 28%. In 2018, Democrats were able to gain some ground with these voters, earning 36% of the White, non-college vote to Republicans’ 61%. In 2020, Biden roughly maintained Democrats’ 2018 share among the group, improving upon Clinton’s 2016 performance by receiving the votes of 33%. But Trump’s share of the vote among this group – who represented 42% of the total electorate this year – was nearly identical to his vote share in 2016 (65%).
  • Biden grew his support with some religious groups while Trump held his ground. Both Trump and Biden held onto or gained with large groups within their respective religious coalitions. Trump’s strong support among White evangelical Protestants ticked up (77% in 2016, 84% in 2020) while Biden got more support among atheists and agnostics than did Clinton in 2016.
  • After decades of constituting the majority of voters, Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation made up less than half of the electorate in 2020 (44%), falling below the 52% they constituted in both 2016 and 2018. Gen Z and Millennial voters favored Biden over Trump by margins of about 20 points, while Gen Xers and Boomers were more evenly split in their preferences. Gen Z voters, those ages 23 and younger, constituted 8% of the electorate, while Millennials and Gen Xers made up 47% of 2020 voters.1
  • A record number of voters reported casting ballots by mail in 2020 – including many voters who said it was their first time doing so. Nearly half of 2020 voters (46%) said they had voted by mail or absentee, and among that group, about four-in-ten said it was their first time casting a ballot this way. Hispanic and White voters were more likely than Black voters to have cast absentee or mail ballots, while Black voters were more likely than White or Hispanic voters to have voted early in person. Urban and suburban voters were also more likely than rural voters to have voted absentee or by mail ballot

.Ron Brownstein at The Atlantic:
The new Pew data, like the earlier 2020 assessments, underscore the durability of what I’ve called “the class inversion” in each party’s base. In the ANES studies, the longest-running of these sources, every Democratic presidential nominee from Adlai Stevenson through Jimmy Carter ran better among white voters without a college degree than among white voters with one. But as cultural issues supplant economic concerns as the principal dividing line between the parties, every Democratic nominee since Al Gore in 2000 has run better among white voters with a degree than among those without one.

The class inversion hit a new peak in 2016, with Hillary Clinton running at least 15 points better among college than noncollege white voters in most of the major data sources (including a breathtaking 27 points better in Pew’s assessment). In 2020, Catalist and the exit polls showed the gap widening, while Pew found it slightly narrowing, but the class inversion remained enormous in all three; each study also found Biden winning a majority of college-educated white voters. (Those gains were central to his strong showing in white-collar suburbs around major cities.) He was especially strong among college-educated white women: “We have the ability to make [them] a base group,” says Celinda Lake, who served as one of Biden’s lead campaign pollsters. But ominously for the GOP, all three sources also showed Biden gaining significantly over Clinton in 2016 among college-educated white men, who historically have been a much more reliable Republican constituency. And while white people without a college degree have been steadily shrinking as a share of the vote, these college-educated white people have slightly grown since 2004 (from about 28 percent to 31 percent of the electorate, per the census). Especially valuable for Democrats: They are highly reliable midterm voters.