“The most striking feature of the election remains the outsize turnout—the largest as a share of the eligible population since the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920 roughly doubled the size of the potential electorate by giving voting rights to women,” writes the Los Angeles Times.
The biggest driver of the historic turnout came primarily from young voters, aged 18 – 29, who went from accounting for 15% of the 2016 electorate to 16% of the 2020 electorate. That single-point uptick, however, doesn’t do justice to the overall change in the generational makeup of the electorate. “Millennials and Gen Z now account for 31% of voters, up from 23% in 2016 and 14% in 2008. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers and older generations have been gradually shrinking, from 61% of the electorate in 2008 to 44% in 2020,” writes Catalist. The 18- to 29-year-old group favored Biden over Trump, 60% to 37%.
Beyond overall turnout, Biden’s coalition relative to Trump’s was far more diversified. We already knew that, but the new analysis of state voter files and U.S. census data underscores that reality, with white non-college voters forming fully 58% of Trump’s coalition, and white voters overall accounting for 85% of his support.
By contrast, white voters accounted for 61% of Biden’s coalition, and they were split almost evenly among non-college whites (32%) and college-educated whites (29%). Voters of color made up fully 39% of Biden voters, including Black voters (20%), Latino voters (12%), and Asian voters (6%).
Political strategists are generally interested in several factors: what share of the overall electorate did different groups account for, what percentage of each group voted for whom, and how does that compare to previous elections.
The massive turnout across the board meant that while more white voters cast a ballot than in any previous election, white voters overall still made up a slightly smaller share of the electorate than in other cycles. It also meant that although Hillary Clinton won over Black voters at a higher rate (93%) than Biden did (90%), Biden still won the votes of more black voters overall, according to Catalist.
As a share of the overall electorate, Black voters remained steady at roughly 12% in both 2016 and 2020. The Latino share of the 2020 vote expanded from 9% to 10%, and Asian voters made up about 4% of the electorate. But Asian American and Pacific Islander voters notched the relative highest increase in turnout of any racial group, according to the analysis. Catalist writes:
The number of AAPI voters increased 39% from 2016, reaching 62% overall turnout for this group. AAPI voters remain strongly supportive of Democrats, delivering a 67% vote share to the Biden-Harris ticket, largely consistent with past elections.
White voters continue to be the largest share of the electorate, but that share has continued to decline over the last several election cycles from 77% in 2008 to 74% in 2016 and 72% in 2020.
The Times reports that the biggest drop in white voters came from non-college whites—the backbone of Trump’s coalition. “In 2008, non-college-educated white voters made up just over half the electorate, but by 2020, they had declined to just over 4 in 10,” the outlet writes. To make up for their decrease in the share of the electorate, Trump managed to buoy his coalition a bit by improving his appeal among voters of color—Latinos, in particular. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 71% of Latino voters, while Biden only won 63% of them.
It was a notable drop that also varied greatly by state, with support for Biden falling 14% among Latinos in Florida and 9% among Latinos in Texas, but only falling about a handful of points in Georgia and Arizona—two states that Biden managed to peel away from Trump.
But overall, several trends really stand out for Democrats—the fact that college-educated white voters continued their move away from Republicans that started in 2018, and the fact that Biden seemed to freeze the fallout for Democrats among white non-college educated voters.
In addition, the electorate continues get younger, less white, and more racially diverse while also becoming more educated. All of those trends work to Democrats’ favor while posing unique challenges to Republicans—who are betting the entire farm on Trump once again in 2022.