Ten Things We Now Know About Wisconsin and Nevada in the 2020 Election
Abundant Challenges for the Democrats in Two Squeaker States
Wisconsin was the tipping point state for the Democrats in 2020 and it was incredibly close. Trump carried it by .8 percentage points in 2016, while Democrats carried it by only .6 points in 2020. Nevada wasn’t as close but it was still an uncomfortable victory for the Democrats, a mere 2.4 point margin in 2020, no improvement at all on Clinton’s narrow margin in 2016.
It has been difficult until now to find reliable data with which to suss out the various trends and counter-trends that produced these results in these two key states. With the data just released by Catalist, however, we now have data detailed and reliable enough to make some judgments about what drove the Wisconsin and Nevada results. There are important similarities to the national story, as well as some significant differences in these states.
Here, then, as another installment in my popular “Ten Things” series, are ten things we now know about the 2020 election in Wisconsin and Nevada. (Margin shifts are all based on the two party vote).
1. The key shift in Wisconsin in 2020 was the shift of white college-educated voters toward the Democrats. There was an 8 point margin shift toward Biden compared to Clinton in 2016. That shift is clearly the main and most direct reason Biden carried the state.
2. As was true nationally, this shift was heavily driven by male voters. White college men shifted 12 margin points toward Biden; white college women just 4 points.
3. White working class (noncollege) voters shifted 1 margin point away from the Democrats (far less than Trump had hoped for in the state, of course). Interestingly and again consistent with national trends, trends for the Democrats were better among white working class men than among white working class women. White working class women shifted 6 points toward Trump while white working class men in Wisconsin actually shifted 4 points toward Biden.
4. Confirming national trends, there were substantial shifts toward Trump among nonwhite voters. This was particularly true among Latino voters, where there was a 20 point margin shift toward Trump. This underscores how the Latino shift toward Trump was found all over the country not just in the most obvious places like Miami and South Texas. Black voters too shifted toward Trump, though a comparatively modest 4 points, somewhat better than the national black shift toward Trump.
5. There has been a truly astonishing 22 point margin shift toward the GOP since 2012 among Wisconsin’s nonwhite 18-29 year olds. That’s got to be a bit worrying for Democrats. [Note: this sentence corrected from original]
6. The multiracial working class in Wisconsin (about two thirds of the state’s voters) moved 2 points overall toward Trump in Wisconsin in 2020 while college graduates overall moved 8 points toward Biden. Consistent with national trends, the state’s nonwhite working class led the way toward Trump, trending 10 points in his direction.
7. Turning to Nevada, white college voters, though a smaller group than in Wisconsin, still played a key role, moving 6 points toward Biden relative to Clinton in 2016. White working class voters also moved toward Biden, albeit modestly by a single point.
8. Latino voters, though their turnout and voter share in the state increased strongly, did not wind up benefiting the Democrats much relative to 2016 since they also exhibited a very large 18 margin point shift toward Trump. This is another piece of evidence that high turnout does not automatically favor the Democrats. Black voters too shifted a substantial 12 points toward Trump.
9. Hispanic women shifted particularly sharply toward Trump in the state, as other data have indicated was true nationally and in other states. They moved 22 points toward Trump, while Hispanic men moved a still sizeable but much smaller 12 points in his direction.
10. Overall, the Democrats lost ground among the multiracial working class in the state (around 70 percent of the state’s voters) while gaining ground among the state’s college graduates. As in Wisconsin, the nonwhite working class drove the Democrats’ working class losses, shifting 12 points toward Trump.
It seems fair to say that Democrats cannot exactly rest on their laurels in these states. Critical weaknesses are evident amid the strengths that enabled them to put these two states in Biden’s column. Evidently a strategy based around rising diversity and high turnout has problems that Democrats had perhaps not anticipated but now need to attend to.