Joe Biden is winning both new voters and vote-switchers 📊 August 2, 2020

2016 Trump voters are about three times likelier than Clinton voters to switch to the other side

If you’re newly worried about your mail-in ballots being counted, I bet you had never entrusted the postal service with an expensive package. And this is my weekly newsletter.

I’m G. Elliott Morris, a data journalist and political analyst who mostly covers polls, elections, and political science. As always, I invite you to drop me a line (or just respond to this email). Please hit the ❤️ below the title if you like what you’re reading; it’s our little trick to sway Substack’s curation algorithm. If you want more content, I publish subscriber-only posts 1-2x a week.


Dear reader,

There are 93 days until election day. Oh, how time flies. As the horse-race begins to suck up more and more of our attention about what might happen, it will be harder and harder to force ourselves to consider the why behind it. Let’s try to start things off with a simple but important topic shaping the contours of 2020: partisan loyalty.


Joe Biden is winning both new voters and vote-switchers

2016 Trump voters are about three times likelier than Clinton voters to switch to the other side

CBS News and YouGov released two new polls today, one each in Georgia and North Carolina. The toplines numbers are a bit rosier for Joe Biden than the averages—he leads Donald Trump by 1 and 4 points, respectively—but the more important stuff is under the hood.

One thing that makes polls from YouGov extremely useful is that they asked many of their online panelists who they voted for shortly after the 2016 election. The idea is that asking them shortly after the contest will minimize bias in vote recall; some past research suggested that people are less likely to admit voting for the loser, though that’s no longer clearly the case.

This enables some more-accurate-than-usual comparisons of how people voted in 2016 and how they say they’ll vote now. In the case of the CBS data in Georgia and North Carolina, we get some stunning data on how likely Trump and Clinton’s 2016 voters are to vote for the same party’s candidates this time around. They find that 2% of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 voters say they’re going to vote for Donald Trump this November, whereas 6% of Trump’s 2016 voters say they’re going to cast ballots for Joe Biden. (Wonky note: Although these differences are technically within the normal margin of sampling error, the interval is smaller when percentages are closer to 0—making the differences more likely to be accurate—and also match a lot of other polls.)

The finding that Trump voters are three times as likely as Clinton voters to say they’re switching parties this time is a huge deal. Although the percentages sound small (4 points is not that large), in our modern age of close elections small changes can make huge differences. We’re talking about a delta of 2.3 million votes nationwide for Biden, just from vote-switching alone.

Perhaps even starker a finding is that new voters in Georgia are 20 percentage points—or 66%—likelier to say they’re voting for Biden than Trump. The directional differences here aren’t too newsworthy (we’ve known for a while that non-voters lean toward Democrats, particularly in the sunbelt) but the magnitude of the disparity is frankly shocking. I did not expect a 20 point difference.

All of this underscores an overall theme in the election: that Trump’s problems run deep. Not only does he need to hold on to more than 88% of his backers from 2016 if he wants to win—he only barely won the electoral college, and with a minority of the popular vote—but if he’s going to lose them, then he’s going to need to find voters from somewhere else. If Trump is also losing new voters with 30% of the vote to Biden’s 50%, he’s running out of options.

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