Daniel Arkin, NBC News, November 3, 2020
The early data from the NBC News Exit Poll of early and Election Day voters point to some key themes in the crucial states that President Donald Trump took from the Democrats in 2016 — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Support for Trump among white college graduates is generally trending down across the states formerly known as the “blue wall,” according to the NBC News Exit Poll of early and Election Day voters.
Trump is winning the support of 43 percent of college-educated white voters in Michigan, which is down from 51 percent in 2016. The pattern is similar in Pennsylvania, though far less pronounced in Wisconsin.
The exit poll data indicates that support for Trump has also dropped in this region among white voters who did not graduate college, with the notable exception of Pennsylvania.
In the Keystone State, Trump is maintaining his strong support among working-class white voters, carrying nearly two-thirds of their vote this year. In Michigan and Wisconsin, however, Trump’s vote share among white voters who did not graduate college is down by about 5 to 8 percentage points.
In Michigan and Wisconsin, Democratic nominee Joe Biden is reversing much of the dip in Democratic union support that hampered Hillary Clinton in 2016. Clinton carried the union vote in both states, but she did so by smaller margins than former President Barack Obama in 2012. Trump’s appeals to disaffected workers were effective in making major inroads with union voters.
Biden is regaining some of the union support that Trump siphoned off in 2016, according to exit poll data. This year 61 percent of Michigan voters in union households and 62 percent of Wisconsin voters in union households are supporting Biden. Trump’s union support in both states has fallen below 40 percent.
Michigan union households cite the economy as the issue mattering most to their vote (33 percent), while smaller shares cited the coronavirus pandemic (20 percent), racial inequality (20 percent), health care policy (13 percent) and crime and safety (7 percent). About one in five Michigan voters — 22 percent — belongs to a household with at least one labor union member.
In neighboring Minnesota, which NBC News projects will go to Biden, white college-educated voters helped buoy the Democrat in a state carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Two-thirds of white college educated voters casting ballots said they supported Biden, according to the exit poll data; just a third are voting for Trump. This is a massive since shift 2016, when Trump captured 41 percent of white college-educated voters.
In particular, white college-educated women have moved sharply to the left since 2016. Four years ago, Clinton won this group by 15 percentage points — 54 percent cast a ballot for Clinton, while 39 percent cast a ballot for Trump. In the 2020 race, Biden leads Trump among white women with a college degree by almost 40 percentage points.
The gender gap
The gender gap is alive and well in the 2020 presidential race — but overall not quite as large as the two prior elections, thanks to a notable eight-point increase in men voters’ support for Biden, according to the data.
Biden is performing better nationally among both men and women than Hillary Clinton did four years age. The increase is particularly large among men, who are breaking about evenly between Biden (48 percent) and President Donald Trump (49 percent).
Female voters are supporting Biden (56 percent) by only about three points more than they did Hillary Clinton (54 percent).
For four decades, support for Democratic presidential candidates has been higher among women than men. This gender gap is one of the most durable features of modern American presidential elections.
Biden is polling well with men overall, but perhaps even more striking is his success with a key subgroup: white suburban men. Nationwide, about 40 percent of white suburban men are breaking for Biden this year, which is up from 2012 (34 percent) and 2016 (28 percent). Democratic support among white suburban women, by contrast, has remained stable.