Democrats were hoping for a landslide and didn’t get it. President Donald Trump was hoping to hold on, and he just might. We won’t know who actually won the race for the White House for a bit as all the votes get counted, but we do know a little bit about how the country changed during four years under Trump.
For starters, we know that turnout far exceeded 2016. But that didn’t signal a blue tidal wave as some Democrats expected. Rather, Trump’s supporters kept pace, defending the President from Democrats motivated to defeat him.
But while Democrats had hoped to unlock new portions of the electorate and counted on lopsided support from voters of color, the most movement from 2016 appears to be among White voters.
It’s also important to note here that this data is based on national exit polls, which paint a broad picture of the country. The election is actually won or lost state-by-state. But the data below is a good starting point to see how the country as a whole voted. If you’re interested in how specific sets of voters did in specific states, see the full exit polls here.
CNN Exit Polls are a combination of in-person interviews with Election Day voters and telephone polls measuring the views of absentee by-mail and early voters and were conducted by Edison Research on behalf of the National Election Pool. In-person interviews on Election Day were conducted at a random sample of 115 polling locations nationwide among 7,774 Election Day voters. The results also include 4,919 interviews with early and absentee voters conducted by phone. Results for the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Note: Exit poll data for 2020 will continue to update and will automatically reflect in the charts below.
Democrats hope every year to get young voters to turn out. While they did not represent a much larger portion of the electorate in 2016 compared to 2020, the youngest voters did break more decisively for Joe Biden.
Another key storyline has been older voters and whether they would abandon the President. While his edge with the oldest voters shrank, he still edged Biden out among them. The change occurred among voters 45-64, who he won in 2016, but lost in 2020.
Women have been the big story in American politics in recent years, but Biden only narrowly built on Hillary Clinton’s advantage among women. Trump, meanwhile, lost the support of men. He won them versus Hillary Clinton in 2016 and was about even with Biden in 2020.
Trump lost the support of many White men, a group he won decisively in 2016 and by less so in 2020. But the bigger story for Democrats — and the reason they were unable to perform better against the President — is that Biden narrowly underperformed Clinton’s margin of victory among voters of color, who all broke decisively for Biden, but by smaller margins than Clinton won them. Most alarming for Democrats is Trump’s performance among Latinos. It helped him keep Florida, which has many Cuban-Americans and Puerto Ricans. But he trailed in Arizona, which has more Mexican-Americans.
Trump’s most fervent base of support is among White men without college degrees. He won them again, but by a smaller margin. More interesting, perhaps, is that he lost White men with college degrees. Biden again underperformed, compared to Clinton, among voters of color.
Biden’s most convincing electoral argument was that he could recapture some of the White, working class voters who went to Trump in Rust Belt states in 2016. He certainly over-performed Clinton among White men and women without college degrees. He made inroads with White college educated men and underperformed Clinton, who was trying to become the first woman president, among White college educated women.