Friends, there is a voting trend taking place that is getting lost in a lot of partisan battles. The electorate is getting younger and more diverse with every single election. That didn’t use to the be case, but our electorate as a whole looks very different than it did for your grandparents! With this in mind, I want to dive into the electorate itself and ask what that means for both parties. So here we go…..
2020…..“WAS THE MOST DIVERSE ELECTORATE EVER?”
Quick Note: For terms, I am going to use polling terms from CNN’s Exit polling results from 2020 and in Virginia. The terms that CNN uses are “white,” “black,” and “voters of color.” So when you see parenthesis in this article, please note that the term to describe a demographic is coming from polling results as opposed to one I am coining or endorsing.
The voting electorate continues to become more diverse, and 2020 was the most racially diverse electorate ever. This was due to big turnout increases in communities of color, particularly among Latino and Asian voters…..Black voter turnout increased substantially.
-Catalist, “the longest running data trust in progressive politics.” May 10th, 2021
Yes, it is indeed the “most racially diverse electorate ever.“ While “white” voters are still a large majority, the fact is that more and more “voters of color” are taking part in the political process every single year. It’s taken a long time, but the “white” percentage of the electorate is slowly decreasing, and “voters or color” have more say in American politics than they ever have before.
By the way, this is incredibly relevant to what just happened in Virginia, because according to the US Census data, the state itself is now less than 70% “white.” So almost a full one third of the electorate are “voters of color.” It’s a relatively diverse state compared to many other “swing states.”
So the question is, If the electorate is “rapidly diversifying” which party is currently benefitting from that, and which party will that favor moving forward? Well, let’s dive in and find out.
Which party does a more diverse electorate favor currently? The one you might actually think……
Black voter turnout increased substantially, while overall Black vote share swung towards Trump by 3 percentage points compared to 2016. This dynamic – many more voters turning out but at a slightly lower Democratic margin – resulted in more net Democratic votes from Black voters in 2020 than in 2016, particularly in several key battleground states.
In 2020, that newly diversified electorate benefitted Democrats. That is your short version. More “voters of color” vote Democrat, so the bigger voting block they become, the more Democrats benefit. Non-white voters make up the largest percentage of the electorate they ever have, and they have been voting at a higher rate than they ever have.
Joe Biden took back the White House in 2020. Republicans lost the Senate. Republicans lost seats in the House. Translation: Advantage Democrats.
End of story right? Not exactly.
Which party does a more diverse electorate favor moving forward? Not the one you might actually think……
The thought that the electorate is diversifying should be a good thing for Democrats and a bad one for Republicans, but if we follow the data, right now it’s doesn’t appear that way (or at least not yet).
“Nevada’s rapidly diversifying electorate didn’t widen the Democratic margin of victory in the state’s presidential election between 2016 and 2020, suggesting that newly activated voters of color may not be as reliably Democratic as previously thought, a new analysis released Wednesday by Democratic voter data analysis firm Catalist shows.”
-Nevada Independent 10/27/2021
Notice the analysis from Catalist, “Newly activated voters of color may not be as reliably Democratic as previously thought.” This was super interesting because Catalist, a progressive firm dedicated helping Democrats expand their electorate, noticed a trend that isn’t exactly favorable to Democrats.
To support this, we can also look to Pew Research, who showed the very same in their own 2020 exit polling analysis stating that “Trump made gains with Hispanic voters.” While the electorate itself has been “rapidly diversifying,” (younger, less white, and more female) this new more diverse electorate is actually trending Republican!
But what about the Traditional Electorate, who does that favor moving forward?
This is where it gets even more interesting for Democrats. While “voters of color” aren’t actually the ones that Democrats have been making gains with there is another area where they have made significant gains. That demographic is the traditional and historically most reliable one, “white” 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%).
So the point here is that Democrats have actually been trending up with “white” voters over the past few cycles and nationally Democrats gained between 2-5 points with “white” voters. Some other quick nuggets from Pew:
- Biden made gains with suburban voters.
- Biden made gains with men, while Trump improved among women, narrowing the gender gap
- Biden improved over Clinton among White non-college voters.
- Biden grew his support with some religious groups while Trump held his ground.
So, ironically enough, even in the midst of “the most diverse electorate ever” it very could well be that “white” voters were the ones driving Democrat’s election wins.
Translation: Both parties are making gains and losses. It’s just that currently those gains and losses have largely cancelled themselves out. The Democrat's voting trend favors a more traditional electorate while the Republican voting trend actually favors this new “rapidly diversifying electorate!”
What does this mean?
I’ll have more on this in the coming days but want to avoid speculation for now. I merely want to point out that the national electorate is shifting, and both parties electorates as a whole, are also shifting.
However, we can’t just blame one demographic for wins and losses these days. Based on battleground state analysis, these shifts are working in tangent and can bring victories and losses to either political party.
Catalist, a firm dedicated to helping Democrats “expand their electorate” also explored the “where”, and the “how.” You see, the battleground isn’t a national electorate at all. For years, it’s been “swing states” where Republicans and Democrats battle for not just diverse electorates, but different electorates, like Virginia!
Here are some nuggets form their 2020 swing state analysis in two differing swing states.
“Democrats retained more of their high levels of support among Black voters in Wisconsin than in the rest of the country relative to 2016. Black support for the Democratic ticket fell by just 2 points in Wisconsin compared to 4 points nationally. At the same time, white college-educated voters increased their share of the electorate by 1 point compared to 2016, comprising 31% of all Wisconsin voters. They also voted strongly for the Biden/Harris ticket, with two-way support at 61%, a 4 point increase since 2016 compared to a 3 point increase nationally.”
So there it is. In Wisconsin, Democrats did better with “black” voters AND “white voters” then they did nationally. That translated to a win for Democrats and helped flip Wisconsin from Red back to Blue. What about other swing states? Glad you asked, let’s take a look at the other swing state they explored, my home state of Nevada.
In Nevada, the decline in support levels among Latino voters was about the SAME as nationally. However, Nevada is more Latino than the rest of the nation: 16% of 2020 voters in Nevada are Latino, compared to just 10% nationally. Losing ground with these voters contributed significantly to the narrow result especially in relative terms, since Joe Biden outperformed Hillary Clinton’s vote share in every state in the country except in Nevada and Florida.
Notice the article also referenced Florida, a state Republicans have been winning despite its Hispanic heavy demographic. The message here is much the same, which is that Democrats are, and have been gaining, with white voters, while Republicans are, and have seemingly been gaining, with non-white voters.
In 2020 Democrats won the swing state of Wisconsin, which they flipped, and Nevada, which they held. Yet as we’ve seen, they didn’t increase actual gains or grow with their traditional diverse base.
In both Wisconsin and Nevada, had Democrats not gained with white voters, it's actually probable that Biden would have lost those states. It’s probable in the same way that Biden also could have lost those states had he not done better in them then National Democrats did with “voters of color.”
So let’s review:
1. The electorate “diversified.”
2. The “diversified” electorate voted in record numbers.
3. Despite a widening and diversifying electorate, the gap between Democrats and Republicans did not necessarily “widen” itself.
4. The electorate, as a whole, still did still elect a Democrat for President, something that did not happen in 2016.
5. The electorate, in Virginia, just turned around and voted a Republican in as Governor, in a state they lost by double digits one year earlier.
Do with it what you will with that, and we'll dive into the "why" in another post at a later time……