November 12, 2020 – The 2020 U.S. elections were an exceptional electoral process marked by the pandemic and economic crisis, modifying on the ground conditions for voting. Many states offered better options to vote by mail and longer time frames for early voting. Before November 3rd, more than 100 million voters had already exercised their right to vote. Rather than a single election day, the U.S. experienced an electoral season that still has not come to an end.
As of the date of publication of this blog, some states continue to count votes. However, given the number of votes counted and cast, the presidential election is decided: The democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris has secured the number of electoral votes necessary to claim victory. The Senate elections, along with some seats in the House of Representatives, still do not have definitive results. In the case of Georgia, due to the state’s electoral rules, the state’s two Senate seats will be decided in a runoff election, or second round, to be held on January 5th. The outcome of that race will determine which party will have control of the Senate for the next two years. Some states will hold recounts given the slim margin of votes between candidates, while in other states the Trump campaign is unsuccessfully attempting to use legal strategies that, without foundation or proof, question the integrity of the electoral process. President Trump refuses to acknowledge his defeat and the Republican party’s attempt to cast a shadow of doubt over the electoral process is hurting the U.S. democracy. The margins of victory have historically been small, making this attitude unjustified. Although each state certifies its own electoral results, ultimately the country will not formally certify its presidential winner selection process until the electoral college meets on December 14th.
There are still votes to be counted one week after election day, and partial results don’t allow for some winners to be projected in certain districts of the House of Representatives, in some states for the Presidential election, and in other local elections. This has without a doubt been a long and anticipated election process, and the lack of a clear ending, including recognition of winners and losers by all parties, justifies the level of expectation. Nevertheless, there are some available results and polling that offer elements for analysis of these elections that we consider important to present.
According to the United States Election Project, the electoral participation rate in 2020 was 66.4%, representing a significant increase from 60.1% in 2016 and 58.6% in 2012. This is an important result, reflecting the highest voter turnout in the country’s history. It’s important to remember that people in the U.S. must register themselves to vote. Having to register becomes a barrier to electoral participation that could be solved by a system of automatic registration, as has been implemented in some states. Automatic voter registration does not restrict individual liberties, rather it represents a procedure that facilitates the exercise of the right to vote. In 2016, 86.8% of people registered to vote exercised that right. The expansion of ways to vote may partly explain the increase in voter participation, though it can also be attributed to the pandemic and economic crisis emphasizing the importance of political leadership, as well as efforts from various sectors and organizations to encourage voting.
As more data becomes available in the coming months, it will be possible to better understand the factors that motivated people to vote, as well as their electoral preferences broken down by gender, age, race or ethnicity, level of education, income, and place of residence. This information is essential in understanding the concerns and preferences of U.S. citizens. Nevertheless, data available from exit polls can give us a preliminary understanding of voter behavior.
The male vote favored President Trump, while women and other gender identities voted for Biden. In terms of age, voters under 45 mostly preferred the Democratic candidate, while those over 45 favored the opponent. When analyzing the survey results according to race or ethnicity, we find the following distribution of voters: 74% White, 11% Black, 10% Latinx, 2% Asian, less than 1% Native American, less than 1% Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and 3% other. When analyzing each group individually, it’s notable that there is more support for President Trump within people who identify as White (55%), while support for Joe Biden was highest among Asians, Latinx and Black, with 70, 63, and 90% respectively.
In terms of level of education, we see more support for the Democratic candidate among those with a college degree, including postgraduate degrees (56 and 58% respectively), while the Republican candidate garnered more support from those who did not complete a secondary education and those who have less than four years of university education (52 and 50% respectively). This may be directly related to the message and style of each candidate.
In terms of income, it is seen that 38% of voters have an income lower than $50,000 and more often supported Joe Biden at 53%. Voters with incomes between $50,000 and $99,999 make up 36% of voters and primarily supported President Trump. 25% of voters have an income over $100,000 and supported Joe Biden at 51%. This contrast, which places the Republican candidate in the middle income bracket, points to the importance of the electorate with annual incomes lower than $100,000. When looking at place of residence, we see that the majority of GOP voters live in rural areas and small cities. In turn, support for the Democratic candidate is primarily urban and suburban areas.
These results invite us to reflect and continue investigating the voters that preferred each of the candidates. It’s necessary to understand as more than 72 million people voted for the reelection of President Trump, and 77 million citizens chose Joe Biden. The expectations and needs of a nation were placed in the ballot box. Now it is up to the President-elect to respond to challenges with the urgency and effort that they demand.