We Just Got Our Clearest Picture Yet Of How Biden Won In 2020 Suburban voters and white men helped push Biden over the top, while Hispanic voters and white women swayed toward Trump. Those trends may shape strategy for Republicans and Democrats in 2022.

We Just Got Our Clearest Picture Yet Of How Biden Won In 2020

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Nearly eight months after the election, we are still learning more about why Joe Biden won the presidency, how Donald Trump lost, and what it might all mean heading into next year's intense battle for control of Congress. There is new data out today explaining how different demographic groups in the country voted, data that is considered more solid than last year's exit polls and their notorious flaws. NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben has been digging into the new numbers and joins us now.

Hey, Danielle.


CHANG: So this new information comes from the Pew Research Center. What are we learning here that we didn't necessarily know back in November?

KURTZLEBEN: We're learning more exact numbers and magnitudes of how things changed. One big thing is how much men were a big part of swinging the election to Biden and especially white men. Trump, you'll remember won white men by a lot, by 30 points in 2016. And he still won them last year, but now we can pretty definitively say that his margin shrank nearly in half to 17 points. And what's really important here is that men's turnout grew quite a bit in an already high turnout year.

But important things we can't tell from this data are why these shifts happen. Was this largely men, for example, who sat out 2016 or people who changed their votes from then? And also, why that happened - we still don't know that. One more thing I want to get out here, though, is suburban voters. We talked so much about them ahead of November of last year. Trump won them by 2 points in 2016. Biden won them by 11 points last year. That's more than half of voters that were in the suburbs. And so they were - they ended up being very crucial to Biden's win.

CHANG: Well, we said that this data is considered more solid than other information we had, like exit polls. Can you just briefly explain why?

KURTZLEBEN: Yes. So Pew does something special here. They match up their survey respondents with state voter records. That's public data. That data doesn't say how a person voted, but it says that a person voted. So that helps with accuracy. It eliminates the possibility of a lot of survey respondents overreporting their voting activity, which does happen in some surveys. In addition, the Pew study has really big samples. More than 11,000 people were a part of this in 2020, so that shrinks down the margins for error.

CHANG: And I understand that there are some key areas where Trump improved from 2016 to 2020, even though - to remind everyone - he did lose the Electoral College, and he did lose the popular vote by a wider margin. What were those areas of improvement?

KURTZLEBEN: You know, one is white women. Originally in 2016, it looked like Trump won a majority of white women. Now, to be clear, he did not. He won 47%, which was still a plurality, slightly more than Hillary Clinton. But he did better in 2020, according to Pew. He won just over half. He did win a majority, 53% of white women voters last year. Now, overall, Biden won women of all races, but by a few points less than Clinton did. With Biden's gains among men, that means the historic gender gap - excuse me - in 2016, it shrank a little bit last year.

But one other group I want to get to is Hispanic voters. Trump won 38% of Hispanic voters according to Pew, and that's really close to the recent high water mark that George W. Bush hit in 2004. He got 40% of Hispanic voters. So while Biden did still win Hispanics overall, this data shows that Trump made some gains and also a big education gap, that Hispanic voters without a college degree voted more for Trump than Hispanic voters with a college degree.

CHANG: And real quick, Danielle, what does this data tell us about the next election, which will be all about the control of Congress?

KURTZLEBEN: I mean, it really signals that these groups that we've been paying so close attention to, Hispanic voters and suburban voters, they have been important. They continue to be important. They continue to be swingy. They continue to be groups that parties are going to go after.

CHANG: That is NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben.

Thank you, Danielle.

KURTZLEBEN: Thank you.

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