Who got us here? Demographics in the US election

Celebrations ensued at the Democratic Party offices on 7th November as Joe Biden was projected the President of the United States for the next 4 years. People took to the streets in jubilation to mark the win of the Biden-Harris duo. The President-elect and Vice-President-elect made history as Kamala Harris became the first Black, first Indian-American, and the first woman to hold the office of Vice-President. Meanwhile, Joe Biden writes his name down in the pages of history as the president elected with the highest number of votes ever — 74,446,452 votes and counting which add up to 50.5% of the total votes cast. 

With the historic relevance of this victory of the Democratic Party,  the President-elect and Vice-President-elect, it is worth taking a minute to stop and ponder on the journey that led to this destination. How did Biden, Harris, and the Democratic party ensure victory in this election? 

Demographic Breakdown: 

This election witnessed the highest voter turnout since 1990 with 66.4% of eligible voters exercising their constitutional right to vote. Some of this can be contributed to mail-in voting that removed the inconvenience of waiting in long lines to vote. 

Exit poll data suggest that women favoured blue with 56% of women supporting Biden. In contrast, by a small margin, men favoured Trump — 49% of men voted red while 48% supported blue. 

On the ethnic front, Whites are the only dominant ethnicity that came out in support of Trump with 57% of white individuals supporting the re-election of Donald Trump. On the other hand, team Biden derived support from other ethnic groups: the African-American (87%), Latin (66%) and Asian (63%) communities. 

On average, the youth was inclined towards the Democratic candidates with 62% of all voters between the ages of 18-29 casting the vote for Biden. The support for Biden continuously decreases as the age-slab increases, with voters above 65 breaking 48-51 in favour of Trump. 

Weight exerted by Women Voters: 

Even though polls suggest that women favoured Biden over Trump, the actual breakdown was much lower than what the prediction suggested with early predictions suggesting a Biden’s 23 point lead in women votes. One thing that the 2016 and 2020 elections have taught us is that women act as a key swing vote.

Historical records suggest that women have ‘voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in greater numbers than men have’ for the last 40 years. However, despite having the right to vote for about 60 years, women finally voted in the same proportion as men in 1980. Since then, the gender gap manifested with a focus on partisan politics. “It’s really about partisan identity”, said Erin Cassese, an associate professor of political science. Data suggests his gender-gap is driven more by the views on the welfare state rather than gendered issues like abortion rights. 

State-welfare affects women more. Hence, economic concerns become the critical factor that determines how women vote. With the traditional binary of left-wing and right-wing politics is applicable to the US politics;  the republican party follows the path laid by the Right-wing ideology. Supporting the rule of free markets and minimum state intervention, the welfare plans by Republican candidates are what turn women away towards the Democratic side that focuses more on equality and social welfare. 

Both Democratic candidates, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, recognised the force exerted by women and to favour political appeal signed bills that improved the economic prospects of women; the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This contributed to their popularity among female voters. 

Apart from partisan preferences, it is possible that women broke in favour of Biden in this election because of the state of the US economy. Exit polls suggest that the economy was the top issue on which voters decided their preference with 35% of voters focusing on this issue. Around 50% of voters felt that the economy was in a ‘poor or not so good’ state. 

The poor economic state brought on by the pandemic has hit hard on women because of their over-representation in the hospitality industry. Moreover, the burden of child-care anyway falls heavily on mothers making this economic downfall even rougher. This misery and trouble could have contributed to the aversion towards Trump. 

Furthermore, the allure of representation on gendered lines with the nomination of Kamala Harris as Biden’s running mate could have tipped some women over to the blue side. While the misogynistic behaviour and outlook of candidates do not take priority over economic concerns, the degrading comments by Trump made on several occasions certainly don’t help his case with the women vote bank.

With various factors contributing to the Biden edge with women in this election, it is clear that the female vote played a critical role in deciding the fate of the United States. 

Race in the (Presidential) Race: 

The public uproar that followed after the death of George Floyd and lead to the Black Lives Matter movement made racism an integral part of the election. Racial inequality was the second-most important issue (preceded by the economy) with 20% of voters believing it was the key issue this election. 

While gender does exert a significant influence, it is clear from data that race and ethnicity matter more. “Women vote more similarly to the men in their own racial group than they do to women in other racial groups”, says Christina Wolbrecht, who is a political science professor at the University of Notre Dame. The African-American community played a crucial role in delivering the democratic win as 87% of all African Americans voted for Biden. 

African-American support became even more critical in battleground states. The racially diverse suburbs of Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, and Wisconsin have more than 39% of people belonging to the black community. These voters helped Biden flip the battleground states that pushed him over the 270 electoral votes mark. This can be seen particularly in South Carolina.

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Let’s consider  partisan politics, the African-American community has historically been inclined towards the Democratic Party which was proven again in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 elections. The conservatism framework of the Republican Party along with the racist comments made by many party associates make the Black community disinclined towards voting for Republican candidates. Hence, it is clear that the African-American community is a strong ally of the Democrats. 

Post-results of the election, it is clear that the US is taking a new direction. Team Biden-Harris is going to bring a wave of change, or so the voters hope. As the country revels in the joy of the dawn of a new USA, as optimism and hope to fill the air, it is abundantly clear that the country has Women and the African American community to thank. 

Advaita Singh is a sophomore at Ashoka University majoring in Economics and Finance. 

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