By Lowell Young
The following is a revised version of a paper that was completed by me on April 25, 2020 and distributed on a limited basis soon thereafter. This revised version is the product of insightful observations by some who read the original version and subsequent research that I conducted.
More specifically, my subsequent research was the result of observations by some readers of the paper that there was a flaw in the model I was using to describe the level of white support for Democratic and Republican presidential candidates in particular states. In other words, the model I was using applied very precisely and accurately to 31 of the 51 states; however, my model did not accurately portray the entire situation in the remaining 20 states. Therefore, in order to make my projections of the 2020 presidential election more precise and accurate, I found it necessary to incorporate the actual level of white support for each of the 2016 presidential candidates in the 20 states where my model did not accurately do so. Having done that, this revised version more accurately reflects the actual electoral situation in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia (D. C.). Therefore, the projected 2020 presidential election results in the 50 states and D. C. that are in this revised paper now have a significantly better likelihood of accurately foretelling the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
What you are about to read is based on the following premise: Numbers don’t lie; people do.
In other words, when asked by pollsters who individual American voters support and/or intend to vote for in any particular election, some voters answer truthfully, others say it’s none of the pollsters’ business and, more significantly, others blatantly lie by telling the pollsters that they intend to vote for someone other than the candidate they truly support.
Giving false or misleading information to pollsters—that is, lying to pollsters—is commonly referred to as the “Bradley effect”. The “Bradley effect” was named for the late African American former mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, who was the Democratic candidate for governor of California in 1982. Bradley was a well-known public official who led in virtually all of the governor election polls from the beginning of the campaign right up to Election Day. However, when the votes were counted on election night, Bradley narrowly lost the election for governor to a far lesser known white Republican candidate.
The underlying theory of the “Bradley effect” is that white voters who never had any intention of voting for Bradley nevertheless told pollsters that they intended to vote for Bradley in order not to be viewed as politically incorrect or racist.
In retrospect, something akin to the “Bradley effect” was in play during the 2016 presidential election, when the great majority of the 2016 presidential election polls incorrectly predicted a Clinton victory over Trump. An important contributing factor to the incorrect polls was the reality that at least some white Trump voters lied to pollsters about their intention to vote for Trump in order not to be viewed as racist or xenophobic.
Since at least some of the information provided to pollsters is misleading and, in some cases, outright lies, polls are not reliable indicators of what the results of a particular election will be.
As the old saying goes, the only poll that really matters is the one held on Election Day.
Conversely, since numbers are neutral and don’t lie, the only true indicator of how people in America will vote in a particular election is learning about how they voted in the past. More specifically, though people certainly do lie, people also are creatures of habit. Therefore, in trying to determine how individual Americans will vote in a particular election, don’t trust what people say to pollsters. Instead, learn how people voted in past elections, which in the end is the best indicator of how they will vote in future elections.
According to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, demography is “the statistical study of the characteristics of human populations… and the effect of all of these (characteristics) on social and economic conditions.” Webster’s definition is good as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. For, in recent times, demography—or what has become more popularly known as “demographics”—has become a vitally important part of electoral politics in the United States.
With that understanding in mind, let us look at the past and present composition of the American electorate and the voting patterns of the major population groups comprising the American electorate in the past five presidential elections (2000-2016). Doing so is a necessary prerequisite to projecting the likely voting patterns of the various major U.S. population groups in the 2020 presidential election.
The Composition of the American Electorate Then and Now
Whites comprised 81% of the American electorate in the year 2000. However, as we approach Election Day in November 2020, the percent of the white voting age population has declined from 81% in 2000 to its present level of 67%.
Concurrent with these declining numbers among the majority white voting age population, there have been significant increases among non-white minority voters. African American voters have increased from 10% of the electorate in 2000 to 13.5% in 2020. Hispanic voters have increased even more dramatically—from 7% in 2000 to 12.5% in 2020. Asian voters have more than doubled in size—from 2% in 2000 to 5% in 2020.
The remaining 2% of the American electorate is comprised of the country’s Indigenous Peoples (Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders).
The percent of voter turnout is another important factor to consider. Between 2000 and 2016, the white voter turnout has averaged 65%. This has exceeded the average voter turnout of all the other major racial/ethnic groups in the U. S., with African Americans averaging 62%, Hispanics 48%, Asians 46% and the Indigenous populations 45%.
The mass fervor, the mass anger and, at times, the mass hysteria (sometimes mindless, sometimes not) associated with today’s “tribal” politics indicates that the level of voter participation will increase in the 2020 presidential election. The question is, by how much will that level of participation increase? If history and statistics are reliable guides—as they usually are—the level of voter participation in 2020 should increase slightly, but not dramatically, in comparison with recent presidential elections.
On the other hand, approximately four out of ten eligible voters in the U. S. will continue to not exercise their right to vote in 2020. (That’s another story for another time.)
The question that concerns us now is this: for whom will the 60% of the eligible voters in the U. S. who will participate in the 2020 presidential election vote for—Donald Trump or Joe Biden?
Of course, the U. S. presidential election is not a nationwide popularity contest. Rather, it is 51 individual state elections, with the winner being the candidate who amasses 270 or more electoral votes. Such being the case, it is essential to attempt to determine how each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia (D. C.) will vote in the 2020 presidential election—in other words, what the all-important Electoral College vote results will be. For as history has taught us on several occasions, the winner of the popular vote doesn't always end up being president.
A LOOK AT THE 2020 ELECTORAL COLLEGE AND POPULAR VOTES
One other thing history and statistics have taught us is that the non-white vote in each of the 50 states and D. C. has remained remarkably consistent in national presidential elections. Since 2000, Democratic presidential candidates on average have received in the vicinity of 90% of the African American vote, two-thirds of the Hispanic vote, 65% of Asian votes and 63% of the Indigenous Peoples’ votes.
In 2020, these average levels of non-white support for the Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, should remain pretty much the same, with the possible exception of a slightly smaller level of African American support (that is, from the average of 90% to about 87%). The reason for this relatively small decline in African American support is the Trump administration’s various outreach efforts to the African American electorate—including the much publicized release of some long time African American detainees from federal prison, the posthumous pardon of the late African American Heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, giving Tiger Woods the presidential medal of freedom after Woods won last year’s Master’s Golf Tournament, and the visible and enthusiastic public support for the president by rapper Kanye West.
Since non-white voters have been very consistent in how they voted in the 50 states and D. C. in the past five presidential elections, what has determined whether a particular state is Republican (Red) or Democratic (Blue) or Battleground (Purple) has been the statistical distribution of the white vote in that particular state. For example, in a Ruby Red (RR) state—such as Wyoming or South Carolina—approximately 24% of the white vote consistently goes to a Democratic presidential candidate, while 72% of whites consistently vote Republican. Conversely, in Royal Blue (RB) California or New York, the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates each receive approximately 48% of the white vote.
Of course, there are various shades of “Red” and “Blue”. So in Light Red (LR) states (such as, Indiana and North Carolina), 30% of whites consistently vote Democratic and 66% vote Republican. Meanwhile, in Light Blue (LB) states (such as New Mexico and Michigan), 42% of white voters support Democratic presidential candidates and 54% vote Republican.
In Purple (P) “Battleground” states (such as Nevada and Florida), 36% of whites consistently vote for Democratic presidential candidates and 60% vote Republican. Incidentally, 36% happens to be the national average of white voters who vote Democratic in national presidential elections.
One final matter to consider is the extent to which voters will support other parties, such as The Libertarian Party, The Green Party and a variety of ideological splinter parties on the left and right fringes of American politics. Traditionally, the Libertarian and Green Parties combine to garner about 3% of the vote in any given presidential election, while the various left and right fringe parties together receive about 2-4 tenths of one percent of the vote.
Nothing anyone says will prevent this from happening, as people have minds of their own and vote accordingly. Ideologically pure true believers on both the right and the left have been a part of American politics from the country’s founding to the present day. They, along with dispirited and disappointed supporters of Bernie Sanders and other former candidates, will express their dissatisfaction by either voting for the Green or Libertarian Parties (or maybe one of the other fringe parties) or not voting at all. This is not all that unusual and/or unexpected and is being included in our state-by-state 2020 presidential election calculations.
With the above understandings guiding us, let us now review the following state-by-state summary of the 2020 presidential election.
State By State Summary of the 2020 Presidential Election
State Trump Biden Other Electoral Vote
Alabama (RR) 1,425,772 (60.2%) 862,060 (36.4%) 80,745 (3.4%) 9
Alaska (RR) 168,024 (52.1%) 143,257 (44.4%) 11,198 (3.5%) 3
Arizona (RR) 1,420,364 (50.2%) 1,313,292 (46.4%) 95,921 (3.4%) 11
Arkansas (RR) 859,889 (60.5%) 510,936 (35.9%) 51,075 (3.6%) 6
California (RB) 5,653,232 (38.5%) 8,566,088 (58.4%) 448,498 (3.1%) 55
Colorado (P) 1,165,152 (48.4%) 1,153,792 (48%) 86,524 (3.6%) 9
Connecticut (RB) 703,770 (42%) 915,982 (54.6%) 59,308 (3.5%) 7
Delaware (RB) 169,814 (38.5%) 256,444 (58.1%) 15,019 (3.5%) 3
D. C. (RB) 35,577 (11.6%) 261,841 (85.6%) 8,582 (2.8%) 3
Florida (P) 4,242,950 (47%) 4,497,942 (49.7%) 296,153 (3.3%) 29
Georgia (RR) 2,338,716 (49.2%) 2,265,692 (47.6%) 52,178 (3.2%) 16
Hawaii (RB) 203,781 (35.6%) 353,354 (61.7%) 15,707 (2.7%) 4
Idaho (RR) 527,384 (68.2%) 216,727 (28%) 29,555 (3.8%) 4
Illinois (RB) 2,337,702 (40%) 3,299,434 (56.5%) 200,160 (3.5%) 20
Indiana (LR) 1,898492 (59.2%) 1,191,364 (37.1%) 119,265 (3.7%) 11
Iowa (P) 786,905 (57.6%) 680,170 (44.6%) 58,664 (3.9%) 6
Kansas (RR) 738,809 (54.6%) 564,327 (41.7%) 50,235 (3.7%) 6
Kentucky (RR) 1,330,360 (60.4%) 787,753 (35.8%) 83,210 (3.8%) 8
Louisiana (RR) 1,258,335 (55.6%) 933,664 (41.2%) 73,993 (3.2%) 8
Maine (RB) 317,623 (47.1%) 330,006 (49%) 26,455 (3.9%) 4
Maryland RB) 964,258 (34.8%) 1,716,630 (62%) 88,076 (3.2%) 10
Massachusetts (RB) 1,237,734 (38.6%) 1,857,404 (57.8%) 116,342 (3.6%) 11
Michigan (LB) 2,265,056 (46.8%) 2,403,497 (49.6%) 175,035 (3.6%) 16
Minnesota (RB) 1,182,528 (44.8%) 1,358,332 (51.5%) 98,996 (3.7%) 10
Mississippi (RR) 819,674 (55.5%) 609,734 (41.3%) 47,349 (3.2%) 6
Missouri (RR) 1,741,089 (58.3%) 1,136,492 (38%) 110,261 (3.7%) 10
Montana (RR) 290,075 (57.6%) 194,159 (38.6%) 19,307 (3.8%) 3
Nebraska (RR) 544,437 (60.8%) 316,860 (35.4%) 33,646 (93.8%) 5
Nevada (P) 559,928 (47.9%) 570,556 (48.8%) 38,583 (3.3%) 6
New Hampshire (LB) 312,416 (46.9%) 328,464 (49.2%) 25,946 (3.9%) 4
New Jersey (RB) 1,570,668 (39.5%) 2,278,057 (57.2%) 132,462 (3.3%) 14
New Mexico (LB) 349,168 (42.2%) 452,532 (54.8%) 24,968 (3%) 5
New York (RB) 3,444,117 (39%) 5,099,744 (57.8%) 282,829 (3.2%) 29
North Carolina (LR) 2,396,362 (51.4%) 2,109,284 (45.2%) 159,518 (3.4%) 15
North Dakota RR) 228,916 (62.6%) 122,800 (33.6%) 13,970 (3.8%) 3
Ohio (P) 3,041,327 (52.9%) 2,495,111 (43.4%) 211,535 (3.7%) 18
Oklahoma (RR) 1,064,680 (61.7%) 558,551 (34.7%) 61,523 (3.6%) 7
Oregon (RB) 829,436 (45.5%) 925,269 (50.8%) 68,282 (3.7%) 7
Pennsylvania (LB) 2,997,505 (47.9%) 3,037,922 (48.5%) 228,808 (3.6%) 20
Rhode Island (RB) 217,411 (43.8%) 261,031 (52.6%) 18,108 (3.6%) 4
South Carolina (RR) 1,255,206 (53.5%) 1,013,920 (43.2%) 79,049 (3.3%) 9
South Dakota (RR) 257,052 (62%) 141,801 (34.2%) 15,662 (3.8%) 3
Tennessee (RR) 1,923,247 (60.2%) 1,155,692 (36.2%) 114,688 (3.6%) 11
Texas (RR) 5,536,451 (51%) 4,974,359 (45.9%) 339,099 (3.1%) 38
Utah (RR) 918,777 (67.3%) 394,770 (28.9%) 51,607 (3.8%) 6
Vermont (RB) 112,673 (35.6%) 191,360 (60.5%) 12,423 (3.9%) 3
Virginia (P) 1,843,412 (47.5%) 1,909,261 (49.1%) 132,416 (3.4%) 13
Washington (RB) 1,399,553 (44.2%) 1,654,114 (52.2%) 112,995 (3.6%) 12
West Virginia (RR) 648,410 (69.2%) 251,136 (26.8%) 33,887 (4%) 5
Wisconsin (LB) 1,399,676 (49.9%) 1,297,797 (46.3%) 105,261 (3.8%) 10
Wyoming (RR) 191,295 (68%) 79,403 (28.2%) 10,739 (3.8%) 3
TOTAL Trump Biden Other Trump Biden
69,125,188 (48%) 70,000,117 (48.6%) 4,829,815 (3.4%) 249 289
Interpreting The Findings
In the first draft of this paper, the State by State Summary stunningly produced the conclusion that President Trump would narrowly win the popular vote but would lose the Electoral College vote to former vice president Joe Biden. However, deeper, more thorough research—a key component of which involved more accurately measuring the level of white support for the respective 2016 presidential candidates in the 20 states that didn’t conform to my previous model—resulted in the above less provocative results.
While the above State by State Summary of the 2020 Presidential Election shows Joe Biden winning the popular vote over Donald Trump, Biden’s margin of victory is relatively narrow (approximately 875,000 votes nationally, which translates to about 6 tenths of one percent). Also, though Biden is shown to be winning the Electoral College vote as well, his Electoral College margin of victory is tenuous at best. Why? Because Biden’s margin of victory in two “battleground” states (Nevada and Pennsylvania) is less than one percent—meaning that one or both of those states could go either way. So, once again, the possibility exists that Donald Trump will lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College.
Of course, it’s possible that some of my calculations and projections with regard to voter turnout and for whom various racial/ethnic groups will vote in 2020 are not exactly on the mark. But how far off the mark can these findings be when they are based on the average of how these various groups voted in the past five (5) presidential elections? Slightly off the mark, maybe, but not dramatically so.
Some will argue (and with some degree of validity) that the current Corona virus pandemic and the social and political unrest currently happening in the streets of America in response to the police murder of George Floyd has radically altered the political landscape in this country and therefore renders the above projections obsolete and irrelevant. However, the “tribal” nature of politics in America today continues to play a determinative role even in the midst of the current Corona virus pandemic and the continuing mass protest movement against racism and police brutality. The fact is about 35-40% of the American electorate continues to agree with whatever Donald Trump says or does, while another 35-40% vehemently opposes everything he says or does. As is often the case, it will be left to the remaining 20-25% of the American electorate to determine which view of Donald Trump is the most credible and best reflects reality. The bottom line is no one really knows with any degree of certainty what effect the ongoing Corona virus pandemic and the continuing mass movement for justice will have on the 2020 presidential election. Therefore, the above calculations and projections are just as valid as any other prognostications unless and until it is proven that they are no longer relevant and valid.
Others will argue that Biden’s promise to choose a woman as his vice presidential running mate will give him a built in advantage over a candidate who is (shall we politely say) very unpopular with women because of his well-documented disrespectful treatment of women. However, a woman vice presidential running mate (Geraldine Ferraro) didn’t help former vice president Walter Mondale when he was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1984. Nor did Sarah Palin help Republican presidential nominee John McCain in 2008. And, most importantly, a woman at the top of the Democratic Party ticket in 2016 (Hillary Clinton) didn’t prevent Donald Trump from being elected president. Simply put, a woman on the presidential/vice presidential ticket of either major party is no longer a history setting precedent—though a woman winning most certainly would be historic—especially in 2020, the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in America!
That said, if Biden selects an African American woman as his running mate, it likely would increase African American voter turnout and decrease Trump’s level of African American support. By how much? Hard to say. But prevailing wisdom holds that a vice presidential running mate adds maybe one or two points to a party’s presidential ticket. If we split the difference and hypothesize that an African American woman on the Democratic Party presidential ticket would increase African American voter turnout by 1.5% (to 63.5%) and decrease African American support for Trump by 1.5% (to 9.5%), then Biden’s chances of beating Trump increase significantly.
As the above State by State Summary indicates, Donald Trump likely will win 28 states, while Joe Biden likely will win 22 states, plus D. C.
Most of the states Trump will win are “Ruby Red” (RR) states—that is, states that have voted Republican in the past five (5) presidential elections. With a few exceptions, Trump will roll up huge popular vote margins (sometimes as much as 40 points) in these states. The only four (4) states Trump probably will win that can be considered “battleground” states are Colorado (0.4%), Georgia (1.6%), Wisconsin (3.6%) and Arizona (3.8%).
Of the 22 states, plus D. C., Biden likely will win, seven (7) are “battleground” states—Pennsylvania (0.6%), Nevada (0.9%), Virginia (1.6%), Maine (1.9%), New Hampshire (2.3%), Florida (2.7%) and Michigan (2.8%).
Clearly, then, with precious little margin for error, Biden’s path to Electoral College victory will be narrow and difficult. To put it another way, a Biden Electoral College victory is most definitely not a given and most assuredly will not be a proverbial walk in the park.
These projections do not factor in the very high probability of foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election, as well as widespread attempts within the United States to suppress the African American vote. In reality, the extent to which foreign interference and the suppression of the African American vote will affect the outcome of the 2020 presidential election cannot be determined, since there is simply no way to calculate their effect on the election.
In summary, then, the 2020 presidential election will be decided in the following 11 states: Arizona; Colorado; Florida; Georgia; Maine; Michigan; Nevada; New Hampshire; Pennsylvania; Wisconsin and Virginia.
The above projections are based on the premise that numbers are neutral and numbers don’t lie. So, if you don’t agree with what you have just read, don’t blame the messenger, blame the numbers.
I conclude with one final possibility for the reader to ponder.
If all other states go as the above projections say they will, and Colorado goes from Trump to Biden and Florida goes from Biden to Trump, this country will find itself in a nightmare to end all nightmares—an Electoral College tie, 269-269!
To be forewarned is to be forearmed!