US election

Voters rejected Trump but did not repudiate him

Biden and the President both did not cut significantly into each other's bases: Analysis

People in Atlanta, Georgia, celebrating last Saturday after the American media announced that Democratic candidate Joe Biden had won this year's US presidential election. A survey and an analysis of election results showed that, in general, Mr Biden
People in Atlanta, Georgia, celebrating last Saturday after the American media announced that Democratic candidate Joe Biden had won this year's US presidential election. A survey and an analysis of election results showed that, in general, Mr Biden did well among women voters.PHOTO: REUTERS

Mr Joe Biden won a majority of the popular vote in the election with the highest turnout in 120 years in the United States by bringing out the usual Democratic Party base.

He repaired the so-called "blue wall" - Democratic states that Mrs Hillary Clinton lost in 2016. And, helped by mobilisers like Representative Stacey Abrams in Georgia, he also convinced African Americans to overcome habitual cynicism and vote in large numbers.

The national AP VoteCast survey done between Oct 28 and the evening of election day on Nov 3, as well as a Wall Street Journal analysis of unofficial results, show that Mr Biden's victory was built on winning over majorities of women, suburban and black voters.

The former vice-president also had more Democratic voters out in cities such as Detroit and Milwaukee, where turnout for the party lagged four years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported.

But within broad categories, there were major differences.

In general, Mr Biden did well among women. Black women were a particular force, with 93 per cent supporting the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket. In this, analysts do not doubt that Ms Harris, the first black woman and first woman of Indian descent to be nominated for vice-president, was a draw.

White suburban women sided with Mr Biden only narrowly - 52 per cent to 47 per cent, according to the AP survey. New York Times (NYT) exit polling has his support among women in general at 57 to 42. A CNN exit poll showed white women and white men both went for President Donald Trump.

The NYT poll also found the better-educated went for Mr Biden, giving him a 55 to 43 edge; the lower-educated went for Mr Trump, 50 to 48.

But, while Mr Trump's loss was a rejection, it was not a repudiation of the most controversial president since Mr Richard Nixon.

Mr Biden did not cut into Mr Trump's base to any significant extent, and neither did Mr Trump cut into the Democratic base.

If Mr Biden had more votes than Mrs Clinton in 2016, Mr Trump too had more votes than when he was elected. Five million more Americans voted for Mr Trump than in 2016 - and that number includes black and Hispanic votes.

"They saw the divisions he fuelled, the xenophobia he embraced… and the pandemic he bungled," Dr Trita Parsi, co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, wrote on Monday.

"They weighed that against the tax cuts they won, the conservative Supreme Court judges he appointed, the climate chaos they can ignore, and the punishments he inflicted on the 'liberal elites'. They decided they wanted four more years of Trump."

It is possible that special interests account for some of that. In Florida, older-generation Cuban Americans remained staunchly pro-Trump, influenced by fear-mongering rhetoric about impending socialist ruin under a Democratic president. Micro-targeting through Spanish-language social media played a major role in that, analysts say.

Between 76 per cent and 81 per cent of white evangelical and "born again" voters supported Mr Trump, the National Election Pool and AP VoteCast showed.

"The religious landscape in terms of voting has been remarkably stable," Mr Robert Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute, told National Public Radio. "White Christian voters have tended to support Republican candidates, and Christians of colour and everyone else, including the religiously unaffiliated, have tended to support Democratic candidates."

NYT data showed that younger people joined blacks, Hispanics and Asian Americans to vote overwhelmingly for Mr Biden.

The outcome of the election indicates that the political map of the US remains carved up into two distinct political spheres somewhat like an apple - the outer layer blue (Democratic-liberal) but the core red (Republican-conservative).

"The 'God Gap' is more and more the narrative when we think about the parties," Eastern Illinois University political science professor Ryan Burge said. "Half of white liberals today identify as religiously unaffiliated, while the right is staying very Christian."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2020, with the headline 'Voters rejected Trump but did not repudiate him'. Subscribe