The contours of a reshaped and expanded electorate are coming into focus, with network exit poll results providing an early look at which groups shifted the most from the 2016 to 2020 presidential elections.
Overall, the network exit poll of early and Election Day voters conducted by Edison Research suggests that despite a massive surge in turnout, many demographic and political groups voted in similar ways to 2016. The survey finds men backed President Trump by eight points while women backed Joe Biden, now the president-elect, by 15 points, both similar to how the groups voted four years ago.
Full 2020 exit polls
Yet the shifts that did occur proved consequential in states decided by narrow margins. Biden benefited from shifts among some perennial swing-voting groups that proved critical in flipping the electoral college in his direction, while Trump’s gains among non-White voters in Florida helped him hang on to that battleground.
Biden won the middle
Share of independents won by each candidate in 2016 and 2020
While Trump won over independents by four points nationally in 2016 against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Biden saw one of his largest pickups among that group — winning a 54 percent majority of independents, a 12-point rise from Clinton’s 42 percent showing in 2016. The pattern was seen across key battleground states, including Wisconsin, where independents flipped from backing Trump by a 10-point margin in 2016 to supporting Biden by a 14-point margin. In Arizona, Biden won independents by 11 points four years after Trump won the group by a narrower three points.
Voters nationally who identified their political views as moderate also swung sharply in Biden’s direction, favoring the Democrat by 30 points this year, compared with Clinton’s 12-point advantage. Across key states, Biden won moderates by 37 points in Arizona, 23 points in Wisconsin, 32 points in Georgia and 17 points in Pennsylvania. Those margins helped overcome the fact that more voters continue to identify as conservative than liberal, by a nationwide margin of 38 percent to 24 percent.
Trump solidified his support among Republicans
Share of Republicans won by each candidate in 2016 and 2020
Despite pleas by “Never Trump” voices, the president secured a larger share of Republican voters nationally, 94 percent in 2020, than four years ago, when he won 88 percent and third-party candidates received more support.
Non-White voters were key to the Biden coalition, but Trump made some gains
Share of non-White voters won by each candidate in 2016 and 2020
While non-White voters lean heavily Democratic, Trump secured some support from the group, especially among Black men nationwide and Latinos in some states. During his campaign, Trump touted the bipartisan First Step Act, a criminal justice overhaul to address disparities in sentencing, and pointed out Biden’s history writing laws that included mandatory minimum sentences.
Share of Black men won by each candidate in 2016 and 2020
Preliminary exit polls show Biden won Black voters overall by 87 percent to 12 percent nationwide, a 75-point margin that is slightly smaller than Clinton’s 81-point margin in 2016 and Barack Obama’s 87-point advantage in 2012. Trump won 19 percent support among Black men, up from 13 percent four years ago and the most for a Republican candidate in exit polls since 1980.
Pennsylvania, one of three states that flipped to deliver a Biden victory, marked a consequential exception to this pattern. Biden matched Clinton’s 92 percent support among Black voters there and won 89 percent of Black men, slightly higher than Clinton’s 83 percent support in 2016.
Trump chipped away at Biden’s support among Latinos in some states
Share of Latino voters won by each candidate in 2016 and 2020
Latinos are a broad group that encompasses a lot of political and ethnic diversity. While Biden won Latino voters by a roughly 2-to-1 margin nationwide, similar to Clinton’s margin in 2016, Trump made gains among Latinos in two key states where they make up a large share of voters. In Florida, Trump won a 56 percent majority of Cuban voters, who account for roughly one-third of Latinos in the state, while Biden won a 68 percent majority of Puerto Rican voters. As a whole, Latino voters in Florida split 52 percent for Biden and 47 percent for Trump, a major shift from 2016 when they favored Clinton by 27 points.
In Texas, Trump won 41 percent support from Latino voters, up from 34 percent four years ago, but in Arizona, Latino voters were critical to Biden’s coalition. The group supported Biden by 63 percent to 36 percent, a 27-point margin that nearly matched Clinton’s 30-point edge four years ago. Biden also lost White voters in the state by a smaller margin than Clinton four years ago.
Asian voters nationally supported Biden by a 27-point margin, smaller than the 38-point margin that Clinton won the group by four years ago and Obama’s 47-point margin in 2012. In California, Asian voters favored Biden by a wider 53-point margin this year, according to preliminary exit poll data, identical to Clinton’s margin in 2016.
Catholics narrowly favored Biden
Share of Catholic voters won by each candidate in 2016 and 2020
Catholics have supported the winner in nearly every election since 1980, according to exit polls. Catholics overall supported Biden — who will be only the second Catholic president — by 52 percent to 47 percent nationwide, a reversal from Trump’s 50 percent-to-46 percent edge in 2016.
Preliminary exit polls show the shift was concentrated among White Catholics, who had supported Trump by a 24-point margin in 2016 and backed Republican nominee Mitt Romney by 19 points in 2012. This year, White Catholics favored Trump by a smaller 12 points nationwide. Hispanic Catholics favored Biden by a 43-point margin, nearly identical to Clinton’s 42-point advantage four years ago.
Full results in early exit polling
About this story
Full 2020 exit polls