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2020-11-05 a

A Warning Sign for Democrats

What the heck just happened? It’s been a crazy election, and ballots are still being counted, but we can get a few ideas from the exit polls. The poll numbers that have been posted so far—which include people who voted by mail or voted early in person, as well as those who cast ballots on Election Day—are preliminary: They’ll be revised as we learn more about which kinds of voters turned out. (Groups with higher turnout get their responses weighted more heavily.) Also, as in 2016, there will be subsequent, more rigorous assessments of who voted and why. But the initial exit poll data are the best available measure, for now, of what voters were thinking. Here’s what they suggest.

First, this electorate seems to have been more conservative than the 2016 electorate. In the 2016 exit polls, conservatives outnumbered liberals by 9 percentage points. In the initial 2020 numbers, the margin is 13 points. (To get an apples-to-apples comparison, I’m citing the original 2016 numbers, not the later Pew study of 2016 voters.) Despite this, Joe Biden held his own by connecting with people in the middle. Hillary Clinton lost independents by 4 percentage points; Biden won them by 14 points. He also got 64 percent of moderates, up from Clinton’s 52 percent. Biden won 8 percent of people who said they had voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Trump, in this election, won only 4 percent of those who said they had voted for Clinton. That gap may decide the eventual outcome.

In some ways, the 2020 electorate was evenly divided. Half the exit poll respondents called the economy excellent or good; half called it poor or not good. Half said “U.S. efforts to contain the pandemic” were going very or somewhat badly; 48 percent said these efforts were going very or somewhat well. Trump’s job approval was negative, but only by 4 points. The strongest sign of anti-incumbent sentiment was the 57 percent of voters who said they were dissatisfied or angry (as opposed to satisfied or enthusiastic) with “the way the federal government is working.”
These numbers will change somewhat as votes are tallied and the composition of the electorate is reassessed. But the patterns so far suggest several lessons. One, Democrats are having trouble attracting self-identified Christians. Two, they can’t count on the votes of people of color, just because the Republican candidate is overtly racist. Three, they need better turnout on the left. And four, they need to consolidate a majority of independent voters. If they don’t fix these problems, they could be looking at difficult maps for a long time to come. (read more)


Remember, Remember, the 5th of November
(The Gunpowder Plot, 5 November 1605)


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