Posted on October 21, 2020

Trump Is Losing Ground with White Voters but Gaining Among Black and Hispanic Americans

Geoffrey Skelley and Anna Wiederkehr, FiveThirtyEight, October 19, 2020

There’s a well-known truth in politics: No one group swings an election.

But that doesn’t mean that the demographic trends bubbling beneath the surface can’t have an outsized effect. Take 2016. President Trump won in large part because he carried white voters without a college degree by a bigger margin than any recent GOP presidential nominee, though there had been signs that this group was shifting rightward for a while.

Likewise in 2018, a strong showing by Democrats in suburban districts and among white voters with a four-year college degree helped the party retake the House, a shift we first saw in 2016 when Trump likely became the first Republican to lose this group in 60 years. {snip}


First off, Democratic nominee Joe Biden is attracting more support than Hillary Clinton did among white voters as a whole — especially white women, older white voters and those without a four-year college degree — which has helped him build a substantial lead of around 10 points, according to FiveThirtyEight’s national polling average. However, Trump is performing slightly better than last time among college-educated white voters, and he has gained among voters of color, especially Hispanic voters and younger Black voters.

White voters made up more than 7 out of 10 voters in the 2016 electorate according to CCES, so any large shifts in their attitudes could greatly alter the electoral calculus. And as the chart below shows, that’s more or less what has happened: Trump’s edge among white voters is around half of what it was in 2016, which could be especially consequential as this group is overrepresented in the states that are most likely to decide the winner of the Electoral College.

One factor driving this is that Biden looks to be doing better than Clinton among white voters without a college degree, a voting bloc that made up close to half of the overall electorate in 2016 and forms a majority of the population in key swing states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. While Clinton lost this group by more than 20 points four years ago, Biden is behind by just 12 points in UCLA Nationscape’s polling. This isn’t entirely a surprise: We saw some signs of Biden’s strength with non-college whites in the 2020 Democratic primary, as he did better than Clinton in counties that had larger shares of white Americans without a college degree. {snip}

Take white women. They backed Trump over Clinton in 2016 but were split pretty evenly between the two parties in the 2018 midterms. And now they favor Biden by 6 points in UCLA Nationscape polling, which would be around a 15-point swing toward the Democrats compared to what CCES found for the 2016 race. Trump has also taken a major hit among older white voters. In 2016, he won white voters age 45 or older by more than 20 points, but according to UCLA Nationscape polling, he now leads by only 4 points.

Trump isn’t losing ground among all white voters, though. White men, for instance, look likely to back Trump by around 20 points again. And Trump is also making inroads with college-educated white voters. Trump lost this group by more than 10 points in 2016, and Republican House and Senate candidates lost it by a similar margin in 2018, but Trump may be running closer to even among them now. {snip} Trump is currently polling at 49 percent among white, college-educated voters in UCLA Nationscape’s polling, and if he stays there, that could help him hold on to battleground states he carried in 2016, such as Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas, where college-educated white voters are more likely to prefer the GOP.

Trump has also gained real ground among nonwhite voters. To be clear, he still trails Biden considerably with these groups, but in UCLA Nationscape’s polling over the past month, he was down by 39 points with these voters, a double-digit improvement from his 53-point deficit in 2016.

While older Black voters look as if they’ll vote for Biden by margins similar to Clinton’s in 2016, Trump’s support among young Black voters (18 to 44) has jumped from around 10 percent in 2016 to 21 percent in UCLA Nationscape’s polling. Black voters remain an overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning constituency, but a notable reduction in their support could still be a problem for Biden.

Notably, young Black voters don’t seem to feel as negatively about Trump as older Black Americans do. For instance, an early-July African American Research Collaborative poll of battleground states found that 35 percent of 18-to-29-year-old Black adults agreed that although they didn’t always like Trump’s policies, they liked his strong demeanor and defiance of the establishment. Conversely, just 10 percent of those 60 and older said the same.

It’s a similar story with younger Hispanic Americans, a group where Trump has also made gains. According to UCLA Nationscape’s polling, Trump is attracting 35 percent of Hispanic voters under age 45, up from the 22 percent who backed him four years ago in the CCES data.


One last point on where Trump has made gains among Black and Hispanic voters: He has done particularly well with Black and Hispanic men, which might speak to how his campaign has actively courted them. {snip}