How independents, Latino voters and Catholics shifted from 2016 and swung states for Biden and Trump

These are the biggest demographic shifts in the 2020 election


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.

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
National26% of votersFlorida32%Arizona39%Georgia28%Michigan27%Pennsylvania19%Nevada32%

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.

[How Georgia became a swing state for the first time in decades]

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
National36% of votersGeorgia38%Michigan37%Nevada34%Florida37%Pennsylvania41%Arizona34%

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
National33% of votersPennsylvania19%Georgia39%Michigan20%Florida38%Nevada39%Arizona26%

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
National4% of votersPennsylvania5%Florida6%Michigan4%Georgia11%Nevada4%

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
National13% of votersPennsylvania5%Arizona19%Georgia7%Michigan3%Nevada19%Florida19%

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.

[Why Texas’s overwhelmingly Latino Rio Grande Valley turned toward Trump]

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
National25% of votersFlorida26%

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

SexChange ’16-’20
48% of voters
52% of voters

17% of voters
23% of voters
38% of voters
22% of voters

67% of voters
13% of voters
13% of voters
4% of voters
4% of voters
NET Non-White
33% of voters

Sex by race
White men
35% of voters
White women
32% of voters
Black men
4% of voters
Black women
8% of voters
Hispanic/Latino men
5% of voters
Hispanic/Latino women
8% of voters

Party self-identification
37% of voters
36% of voters
26% of voters

College graduates
41% of voters
Some college or less
59% of voters

Protestant/Other Christian
43% of voters
25% of voters
No religion
22% of voters

White Evangelicals
White evangelical Christians
28% of voters
All other voters
72% of voters

24% of voters
38% of voters
38% of voters

Under $50,000
35% of voters
39% of voters
$100,000 or more
26% of voters

About this story

Preliminary national and state exit poll results from interviews of randomly selected voters as they exited voting places across the country on Nov. 3, as well as from voters exiting early-voting locations. Early voters were also reached through a telephone survey. The sample sizes are 15,590 for national results, 5,906 in Florida, 4,385 in Georgia, 3,927 in Nevada, 3,090 in Pennsylvania, 2,719 in Michigan and 1,639 in Arizona. The polls were conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, The Washington Post and other media organizations. Results are weighted to match vote tallies by region and to correct for differential participation by subgroup.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to say that more Catholics supported Donald Trump in 2016 than Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote.

Illustrations by Ben Kirchner.

Chris Alcantara is a graphics reporter at The Washington Post, where he uses code and data to tell visual stories on a variety of subjects, including politics and technology. He joined The Post in 2016.
Leslie Shapiro has been a Graphics Reporter for The Washington Post since 2016, focusing on data visualization and new media storytelling.
Emily Guskin is the polling analyst at The Washington Post, specializing in public opinion about politics, election campaigns and public policy. Before joining The Post in 2016, she was a research manager at APCO Worldwide and prior to that, she was a research analyst at the Pew Research Center's Journalism Project.
Scott Clement is the polling director for The Washington Post, conducting national and local polls about politics, elections and social issues. He began his career with the ABC News Polling Unit and came to The Post in 2011 after conducting surveys with the Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project.
Brittany Renee Mayes joined The Washington Post as a graphics reporter in June 2018. She previously worked at NPR on the visuals team as a news applications developer.