Election Day building blocs
A guide to the voters to watch on election night—including those who could defy expectations
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The future of the White House and the U.S. Senate is set to dominate attention on election night, but voters still take center stage in determining the outcomes. As the night unfolds, here are a few groups of voters to watch, including those who could defy expectations:
Senior citizens: If the future belongs to the young, the present election could belong at least in part to the older. President Donald Trump won voters ages 65 and older by nearly 10 points in 2016. This year, national polls have shown him trailing Democrat Joe Biden by double digits among this voting bloc.
Still, elections come down to swing states, and the races appear tighter in swing states with large populations of senior citizens.
In Pennsylvania—a state that helped tip the election to Trump in 2016—senior citizens make up nearly 20 percent of the electorate. In Florida, another key state to watch on Tuesday, senior citizens account for more than 20 percent of the state’s voters.
Polls report Biden leads voters overall in both states, but only by single digits. Biden’s lead grows among senior citizens over the age of 65, according to Joanne Grossi of the AARP: She says polls show Biden leading that group in Pennsylvania by nearly 17 points.
Why the shift? One possible reason: It’s been a particularly tough year for seniors. The group accounts for nearly 80 percent of all U.S. deaths connected to COVID-19.
As Pennsylvania grabs Election Day attention, our recent cover story explains more about how the state’s voting system works and how it could get hung up.
White suburban women: Trump won suburban voters by 2 percentage points in 2016, but the group shifted slightly more Democratic in the 2018 mid-term elections.
This time around, polls show Trump still leading white suburban men 57 percent to Biden’s 41 percent. But Biden may trump the president with white suburban women: Polls show the Democrat leading the group 54 percent to Trump’s 45 percent. It’s a narrow lead, but could make a difference in tight races.
Black voters: After a year of protests and demonstrations connected to concerns over racial injustice, black voters may deliver a slight electoral twist: Trump may win more black voters this year than he did in 2016.
Polls show some 83 percent of black voters supporting Biden, but Trump may gain 10 percent of the group’s votes. (He won around 8 percent in 2016.) Trump’s lead appears stronger among black men than black women, but black women tend to vote at higher rates than black men.
Biden performs best with older black voters, while younger black voters show less enthusiasm for the Democratic Party overall. While less devotion to the Democratic Party doesn’t translate to deep devotion to Republicans, any lack of voter turnout among black voters in swing states such as Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia could ding Biden’s prospects, even if he wins the group of voters overall.
Hispanic voters: In past elections, Republicans have kicked themselves for not reaching out more to Hispanic voters—or for reaching out too late.
This year, that shoe could end up on the Democratic foot, particularly in the swing state of Florida: A recent poll showed Biden leading among Latinos in the state, with 54 percent support. But another survey showed him trailing Trump among the group by 3 points.
In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton won 62 percent of Hispanic votes in Florida.
The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed some outreach efforts, but the Trump campaign has made a particularly consistent effort among voters of Cuban and Venezuelan descent in areas like South Florida.
Even ahead of Election Day, Lorella Praeli of the progressive group Community Change Action lamented Democratic outreach to Hispanic voters. Praeli told The New York Times: “There’s more we could have done on our side, there is more the Biden campaign should have done, as a party we are always so late to the game. We are always leaving people on the table, we are always leaving power on the table.”
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