Pew’s survey of “validated voters” — members of their survey panel whom they could match as people who cast ballots on state voter files — is among the deepest analyses of who voted in the last presidential election and how. And because Pew also conducted similar studies of the 2016 and 2018 electorates, it’s possible to track how both parties’ coalitions evolved across the Trump era — and where the battle lines for the 2022 midterm elections may fall.
According to the Pew analysis, Trump won white voters by 12 percentage points, 55 percent to 43 percent, down from 15 points in 2016. Biden narrowed Trump’s margin among white men — from 30 points in 2016, to 17 points in 2020 — but Trump won white women by a larger spread (7 points) than he won them in 2016 (2 points).
Meanwhile, Biden held steady among Black voters, carrying them by an 84-point spread (92 percent to 8 percent), virtually identical to Hillary Clinton’s 85-point lead four years ago.
But Biden only won Hispanic voters by 21 points, 59 percent to 38 percent, down significantly from Clinton’s 38-point advantage, 66 percent to 28 percent. There was a slight gender gap — Biden won Hispanic men by 17 and Hispanic women by 24 — but Trump surged broadly among Hispanics, especially among Hispanic voters without a college degree.
Trump “had about a 10-point gain from 2016 to 2020 in the share of Hispanic voters who supported him,” said Ruth Igielnik, a senior researcher at Pew. “One thing that I thought was really striking was there was this pretty sizable college/non-college divide within Hispanic voters. Hispanics without a college degree were about 10 points more supportive of Trump … than college-educated Hispanics.”
The Trump gains with Hispanic voters have some Republicans optimistic they can pick up congressional seats in Texas next year, along with holding the two South Florida House seats they flipped in 2020. But the Pew report suggests those gains could be fleeting: While Trump narrowed his loss among Hispanic voters between 2016 and 2020, Democrats won them in 2018 House races by their widest margin, 47 points.
While the survey release does not break down Hispanic voters by country of origin, the authors do remind readers that the Hispanic vote is “not a monolith” and link to an October 2020 blog post
headlined, “Most Cuban American voters identify as Republican in 2020.”
Igielnik described the 2020 election as one of both “continuity” and “change.” The majority of Biden and Trump supporters also voted for the same party in 2016. But huge spikes in turnout for the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential elections also mean that both parties brought new voters into the fold. Each candidate benefited from new voters in 2020, with Biden winning the vast majority of younger, new voters — but Trump cleaning up with new voters over age 30.
A key group, Igielnik said, were voters who did not participate in 2016 — historically, a lower-turnout election for a presidential year — but did vote in both 2018 and 2020. Keeping those voters in the fold will be key for Democrats, given the historical trends against new presidents in their first midterm and the typical dropoff in turnout when the presidency isn’t on the ballot.
“That group favored Biden by 2-to-1,” Igielnik said. “That’s where he was able to get that edge.”
And despite the rise in turnout, the historical trends of who voted and who didn’t persisted. Voters were more likely to be older, more Republican, and white. Younger voters, Democrats and nonwhites made up larger shares of the group that didn’t turn out in 2020, in line with long-term trends.
“Even in this very-high-turnout election, all of those differences were still evident,” Igielnik said. “There were very similar differences between voters and non-voters.”
Pew’s “validated voter” survey was conducted Nov. 12-17, 2020, with roughly 10,000 voters. The results were weighted to the general-election outcome, with Biden capturing 51 percent of the vote, and Trump 47 percent.