Presidential Election 2020: White men critical in Biden’s win

It was – and still is – President Trump’s most reliable demographic.

White men.

However, it’s that same demographic that was critical in helping Joe Biden unseat the Republican incumbent.

An underdog against the more established Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump won 62 percent of White male voters in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. And in 2020, he enjoyed support from 61 percent for the same demographic against Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

So, what’s the big deal? Trump’s support among White men only dropped a percentage point from 2016 to 2020.

One percent, nationally, is nothing to sneeze at given the closeness of the race and the size of the demographic; but there was a real and legitimate shift for Biden in other ways and both were very significant in determining the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election.

In 2020, unlike the election in 2016, White male anti-Trumpers largely ignored third party candidates and rallied around Biden. The significance of third party candidates in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election cannot be underestimated and is one of the most overlooked takeaways in U.S. Presidential Election history.

Second, raw White male support for Trump in 2020, unwavering in most parts of the country, weakened in several key swing states from 2016 to 2020.

White Male Voting

2016 Election
Trump – 62%
Clinton – 31%
* Other – 7%

2020 Election
Trump – 61 %
Biden – 38%
* Other – 1%

* Notice the shift in support for third party candidates (Other); Biden was far more appealing to anti-Trumper White males than his Democratic predecessor, Hillary Clinton.

Nationally, Joe Biden received 38 percent of the White male vote in 2020 – Seven points more than Clinton tallied four years ago; And most of it can be attributed to Biden’s strong support among anti-Trumpers who, in large numbers, passed on Clinton in 2016 in favor of the Green, Libertarian or Reform Party candidate.

Also, Biden made good on his promise to win back a lot of White male moderates in swing states who supported Trump four years ago, creating a dent where it counted the most.

Michigan

In 2016, Trump upset Clinton in the previously reliable blue state of Michigan, winning by just 11,000 votes (0.2%). And among White men, 36 percent of the Michigan voting electorate at the time, Trump walloped his foe by garnering 64 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 29 percent.

Michigan White Men

2016
(Est 36% of the state’s voting electorate)
Trump – 64%
Clinton – 29%
Other – 7%

In 2020, however, it was an altogether different story. Biden’s share of White male support increased 10 percent from 2016 while Trump’s decreased by a hefty 4 percent. Biden, of course, went on to carry the state by about 150,00 votes (1.8 percent).

2020
(Est 37% of the state’s voting electorate)
Trump – 60%
Biden – 39%
Other – 1%

Wisconsin

In the Badger State, where Democratic presidential candidates had enjoyed great success since 1992, Trump also defied expectations, carrying Michigan by 23,000 votes (0.23%) in 2016. White men opted for Trump over Clinton by 24 percentage points, 59-35%.

Biden closed the gap 7 points in 2020, garnering 41 percent of the White male vote to Trump’s 58 percent.

Wisconsin White Men

2016
(Est 43% of the state’s voting electorate)
Trump – 59%
Clinton – 35%
Other – 6%

2020
(Est 43% of the state’s voting electorate)
Trump – 58%
Biden – 41%
Other – 1%

Biden would triumph by a little over 20,000 votes to carry the state by 0. 7%. Again, Trump’s support among his White male base was virtually unchanged versus 2016; However, the anti-Trump vote was solidly behind Biden and far less split than was the case four years prior.

Arizona

In 2016, a whopping 20 percentage points separated Trump from Clinton among White male Arizonans. Hillary could fair no better than 36 percent while her rival garnered 56 percent. Accordingly, Trump would win the state by 3.5 percentage points.

Arizona White Men

2016
(Est 37% of the state’s voting electorate)
Trump – 56%
Clinton – 36%
Other – 8%

Fast forward to the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election and we saw riveting metrics from the Grand Canyon State. Among White male voters, Biden narrowed Trump’s 20 point cushion from 2016 to just 6 in 2020 – 46% to 52%. Not only did the former vice president woo anti-Trump moderates en masse, he dug into Trump’s White male base.

2020
(Est 34% of the state’s voting electorate)
Trump – 52%
Biden – 46%
Other – 2%

Biden sealed the deal in Arizona, winning the previously reliably Republican state by 20,000 votes (0.7%).

Pennsylvania

The Keystone State served as one the biggest shockers in the 2016 Presidential Election. Clinton had held a narrow lead in nearly all of the polls but couldn’t fend off a surging Trump who carried the blue state by about 44,000 votes (0.7%) – 48.6% to 47.9%.

Pennsylvania White Men

2016
(Est 38% of the state’s voting electorate)
Trump – 64%
Clinton – 32%
Other – 4%

Heading into the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, Pennsylvania was considered by many as the most important state for both candidates. A win here for one candidate would significantly narrow the path to victory for the other.

2020
(Est 38% of the state’s voting electorate)
Trump – 62%
Biden – 37%
Other – 1%

In Pennsylvania, Biden didn’t generate any earth-shattering gains among White men BUT made solid improvements all around. He performed better than Clinton by 5 percentage points while cutting into to Trump’s raw support by 2 percentage points. Those gains were considerable given Biden didn’t have much ground to make up in Pennsylvania to begin with.

It’s no surprise Biden won Pennsylvania, his birth state, by a healthy 2.2 percentage points (about 81,000 votes).

Nevada

Although Clinton carried the Sagebrush State by 2.4 percentage points in 2016, it was up for grabs in 2020 thanks to Trump’s weighty favorability increase among minorities there.

With elevated support from Blacks and Latinos, Trump was poised to win Nevada in 2020 if not for one critical roadblock.

White men.

Shocking, huh?

At 30 percent of the state’s voting electorate, White men outnumbered all Blacks and Hispanics, combined (24%), so movement in that demographic had more significant implications.

In 2020, Trump, in Nevada, gained a net of 5 percentage points among Blacks and 6 with Latinos, and would have likely carried the state had White male moderates and independents rejected Biden the same way they spurned Clinton 4 years ago.

Nevada White Men

2016
(Est 30% of the state’s voting electorate)
Trump – 60%
Clinton – 34%
Other – 6%

2020
(Est 30% of the state’s voting electorate)
Trump – 59%
Biden – 40%
Other – 1%

Trump’s cushion among White men in Nevada dropped from +26 in 2016 to +19 in 2020 – a difference of 7 percentage points.

By the time all the votes were counted, the president’s gains among minorities were entirely negated by White men, allowing Biden to prevail by roughly the same margin Clinton did 4 years ago, 2.5 percentage points.

Biggest Takeaways

  • Trump’s win in 2016 was heavily due to Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity; Biden won back White male left-learners, moderates and independents who’d previously rejected both Trump and Hillary in favor of a third party candidate

  • Biden, nationally, didn’t convert a ton of White male Trump supporters percentage wise, but a softening in support from such a large demographic was a big deal, especially given some of his most impactful dents were where he needed them most – key swing states

  • Biden’s biggest gains among White men were among those a) living in the suburbs and b) with a 4-year college degree

Tags: U.S. Presidential Race 2020

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