The 2020 presidential election was historic in many ways. Amid a global pandemic, with unprecedented changes in how Americans voted, voter turnout rose 7 percentage points over 2016, resulting in a total of 66% of U.S. adult citizens casting a ballot in the 2020 election. Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump 306-232 in the Electoral College and had a 4-point margin in the popular vote. While Biden’s popular vote differential was an improvement over Hillary Clinton’s 2016 2-point advantage, it was not as resounding as congressional Democrats’ 9-point advantage over Republicans in votes cast in the 2018 elections for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Validated voters, defined
Members of Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel were matched to public voting records from three national commercial voter files in an attempt to find a record for voting in the 2020 election. Validated voters are citizens who told us in a post-election survey that they voted in the 2020 general election and have a record for voting in a commercial voter file. Nonvoters are citizens who were not found to have a record of voting in any of the voter files or told us they did not vote.
A new analysis of validated 2020 voters from Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel examines change and continuity in the electorate, both of which contributed to Biden’s victory. It looks at how new voters and voters who turned out in one or both previous elections voted in the 2020 presidential election and offers a detailed portrait of the demographic composition and vote choices of the 2020 electorate. It also provides a comparison with findings from our previous studies of the 2016 and 2018 electorates.
A number of factors determined the composition of the 2020 electorate and explain how it delivered Biden a victory. Among those who voted for Clinton and Trump in 2016, similar shares of each – about nine-in-ten – also turned out in 2020, and the vast majority remained loyal to the same party in the 2020 presidential contest. These voters formed substantial bases of support for both Biden and Trump. Overall, there were shifts in presidential candidate support among some key groups between 2016 and 2020, notably suburban voters and independents. On balance, these shifts helped Biden a little more than Trump.
Overall, one-in-four 2020 voters (25%) had not voted in 2016. About a quarter of these (6% of all 2020 voters) showed up two years later – in 2018 – to cast ballots in the highest-turnout midterm election in decades. Those who voted in 2018 but not in 2016 backed Biden over Trump in the 2020 election by about two-to-one (62% to 36%).
Both Trump and Biden were able to bring new voters into the political process in 2020. 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.
One somewhat unusual aspect of the 2016 election was the relatively high share of voters (nearly 6%) who voted for one of the third-party candidates (mostly the Libertarian and Green Party nominees), a fact many observers attributed to the relative unpopularity of both major party candidates. By comparison, just 2% of voters chose a third-party candidate in 2020. Overall, third-party 2016 voters who turned out in 2020 voted 53%-36% for Biden over Trump, with 10% opting for a third-party candidate. Among the 5% of Republicans who voted third-party in 2016 and voted in 2020, a majority (70%) supported Trump in 2020, but 18% backed Biden. Among the 5% of Democrats who voted third-party in 2016 and voted in 2020, just 8% supported Trump in 2020 while 85% voted for Biden.
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.
This analysis is based on a survey of 11,818 members of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel conducted Nov. 12-17, 2020, shortly after the general election. It also draws on surveys conducted among 10,640 panelists from Nov. 7-16, 2018, after the midterm election that year and 4,183 panelists from Nov. 29 to Dec. 12, 2016, after the general election. Researchers attempted to match the panelists to three different commercial voter files that contain official records of voter registration and turnout for 2016, 2018 and 2020. (For more details, see Methodology.) now a factual evaluation of 11/3/2020 , 11/4/2020 with a time line,
Trump has a wide lead and is broadly expected to carry the state. Still, just 56% of the expected vote has been counted, with Trump ahead by 62.9% to 33%.
Biden has a significant lead, and the Associated Press and Fox News have already called the state for the Democrat. With 86% of the expected vote counted, Biden leads with 50.7%1,672,000 against 47.9% for Trump,1,661,000 according to Edison Research.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs told ABC News that Maricopa County, which includes heavily populated Phoenix, had about 400,000 outstanding ballots to be counted and would release more results later on Wednesday. The count was 75 % Trump 25 % Biden Trump 1,961,000 Biden 1,772,000 Trump wins Arizona
Trump is holding onto a narrow lead, but several of the large counties around Atlanta that lean Democratic have substantial numbers of ballots still to count. With 95% of the expected vote counted, Trump is ahead with 49.7% versus 49% for Biden.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he hoped to have a result by the end of Wednesday.
Under Georgia law, if the margin between the candidates is less than or equal to 0.5 percentage point, a candidate may request a recount within two business days following the certification of results.
Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit to require that Chatham County, which includes Savannah, separate and secure late-arriving ballots to ensure they are not counted. The campaign said it had received information that late-arriving ballots in the county were improperly mingled with valid ballots.
Maine is one of two states that divide their Electoral College votes between the winner of the statewide popular vote and the winner in each of its congressional districts.
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Edison Research has allocated Biden two votes for the statewide outcome, which he leads by 53.8% to 43.2% with 87% of the state’s expected votes counted. It also called the state’s 1st Congressional District for Biden, giving him a third electoral vote from the state.
Trump has a lead of 51.4% to 45.1% in the state’s 2nd Congressional District. The Associated Press projected Trump the winner of the state’s fourth vote on Wednesday, with only 53.7% of the expected vote in.
Biden has a growing margin, with CNN and NBC projecting Biden the winner there just before 4.30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT) on Wednesday. Biden leads Trump by 50.3% to 48.1% with 99% of the state’s expected votes counted.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said on Wednesday night that all valid ballots in the state had been counted, and that a lawsuit by Trump seeking to halt counting of votes there was “frivolous.”
Long seen as a solid Biden-leaning state, Nevada now appears in play. Edison Research data shows 86% of the expected vote is in and Biden’s lead is just 49.3% to 48.7% for Trump.
State officials expect the remaining votes - largely mail-in ballots - to be counted by 9 a.m. PST (1700 GMT) on Thursday. Clark County, the state’s largest and home to Las Vegas, has tallied 84% of expected votes so far and Biden is ahead there 52.9% versus 45.4% for Trump.
The margin between Trump and Biden is less than 2 percentage points as the president clings to a lead of 50.1% to 48.7% for the Democrat, with 95% of the expected vote counted.
The state allows mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday to be counted if they are received by Nov. 12. On Wednesday morning, the Biden campaign said it expected a final result to take several days, and state officials said later on Wednesday that a full result would not be known until next week.
Of the battleground states, Pennsylvania has the furthest to go in counting votes, and Trump so far maintains a lead. With 88% of the expected vote counted, Trump is up 50.8% to 47.9% for Biden.
Officials there can accept mailed-in ballots up to three days after the election if they are postmarked by Tuesday. About 1 million votes remain to be counted, Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said on Wednesday.
If the margin of victory is within half of 1%, state law requires a recount. After counting the votes total is 50 % each so Trump 58.69 % Biden 474.9 % Trump wins Pennsylvania
The Trump campaign said on Wednesday it was suing to temporarily halt vote counting in Pennsylvania and also asked to intervene in a U.S. Supreme Court case over mail-in ballots in the state, which could determine the winner of the election.
The Trump campaign said on Wednesday it would request a recount of votes in Wisconsin, where the margin between the candidates is less than 1 percentage point.
Biden is up 49.4% to 48.8% for Trump with 99% of the expected vote tallied, according to Edison Research. Edison said that it would not call a race in Wisconsin or any state where the margin is narrow enough to allow a candidate to demand a recount under state law. Some media outlets, including NBC and the Associated Press, projected Biden the winner.
Note: Vote counts supplied by Edison Research, which provides exit polls and voting data to the National Election Pool media consortium. Reuters has not independently tabulated the ballots.
Before 306 Biden 232 Trump
Electoral college vote change Wisconsin 10 Arizona 8 Pennsylvania 20 Electoral College votes before the actual count in these three
After Biden 268 Trump 280 Trump Winner 2020 POTUS Race