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2020 President

Sabato's Crystal Ball

How the Other Half Votes: The United States, Part One

Dear Readers: In the latest edition of our Politics is Everything podcast, we discuss the third indictment of former President Trump as well as today’s Crystal Ball article. Listen and subscribe here or wherever you get your podcasts. — The Editors KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Just about 150 of the nation’s more than 3,100 counties cast half of the nation’s presidential vote in 2020. — As we typically see at the state level, the more vote-rich counties are more Democratic, while the thousands of smaller counties that make up the bottom half are more Republican. — This political gulf has widened. Despite similar overall national presidential margins in 2012 and 2020, the difference between the top and bottom halves expanded about 10 points from 2012 to 2020. — Joe Biden won 126 of the 151 top half counties, while Donald Trump won 2,548 of the remaining 2,960 counties in the bottom half. — Trump’s wins among the top half counties were concentrated among the smaller pieces of that group — Biden won all but one of the nearly 50 counties that cast 500,000 votes or more. Top half vs. bottom half at the national level Earlier this year,

Kyle Kondik

Are Latinos Deserting the Democratic Party? Evidence from the Exit Polls

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — One key question in American politics is the trajectory of Latino voters. Donald Trump performed better in 2020 with Latino voters than he did in 2016, particularly in places like South Texas and South Florida. — However, an analysis of the longer-term trend in Latino presidential voting shows that this growing voting bloc is not necessarily trending one way or the other. — Presidential incumbency appears to have a stronger influence on Latino voters than on other demographic groups. Trends in the Latino vote Recent election results have led some political strategists and pundits to suggest that the partisan allegiances of Latino voters in the U.S. may be shifting in the direction of the Republican Party. Exit poll results from the 2020 presidential election showed Donald Trump modestly increasing his share of the Latino vote even as his share of the national popular vote declined between 2016 and 2020. At the same time, results from some heavily Latino areas in South Florida and along the Texas-Mexico border showed a dramatic swing toward the GOP. More recently, one exit poll showed the Republican candidate winning a majority of the Latino vote in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial

Alan I. Abramowitz

The “Big Sort” Continues, with Trump as a Driving Force

Dear Readers: UVA Center for Politics Director Larry J. Sabato recently interviewed Jonathan Karl of ABC News and Rep. Ro Khanna (D, CA-17) about, respectively, their new books Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show and Dignity in a Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us. If you missed either of these interviews, you can watch them on YouTube (the Karl interview is here, and the Khanna interview is here.) In today’s Crystal Ball, Senior Columnist Rhodes Cook looks at the striking growth of counties with “blowout” presidential results. — The Editors KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — More than 20% of the nation’s counties gave 80% or more of its 2-party presidential votes to either Donald Trump or Joe Biden. — Trump won the vast majority of these counties, but because Biden’s blowout counties are much more populous, he got many more votes out of his “super landslide” counties than Trump got out of his. — Trump’s blowouts were concentrated in white, rural counties in the Greater South, Interior West, and Great Plains, while Biden’s were in a smattering of big cities, college towns, and smaller counties with large percentages of heavily Democratic nonwhite voters. The

Rhodes Cook

Why Voter Suppression Probably Won’t Work

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — In the aftermath of the high-turnout 2020 election, many Republican-controlled state governments have passed legislation that Democrats believe will harm their party’s voter turnout. — However, voting rules did not appear to have much impact on turnout and had no measurable impact on vote margins at the state level in the 2020 presidential election. — Both voter turnout and voting decisions in 2020 were driven by the strong preferences held by the large majority of voters between the major party candidates. The limited impact of voting procedure on 2020 turnout Former President Trump and his political allies continue to push baseless allegations of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election more than a year after Joe Biden’s inauguration. Largely in response to those allegations, Republican state legislatures around the country have enacted dozens of laws intended to tighten identification requirements, limit access to absentee voting, reduce the time period for early in-person voting, and limit the use of drop boxes for absentee voting. Democrats have responded to these new laws by proposing legislation in Congress to override these laws but have failed to pass new voting rights laws due to unified Republican opposition and

Alan I. Abramowitz

How Democrats Are Losing the War for Counties

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Democrats, particularly at the presidential level, are maintaining or increasing their electoral strength in populated areas, but Republicans are strengthening their hold on more rural areas. — This tradeoff has led to a decline in the number of counties won by Democratic candidates since 2000, especially on the presidential level. So while Democrats continue to win a large number of votes, those votes are being concentrated in a smaller geographic footprint, which can affect the party’s competitiveness for offices where district lines are drawn. — The number of states where Democrats have seen the strongest decline in the number of counties won since 2000 is 5 times as large as the number of states where they have seen the strongest increase in the number of counties won. And the states with declining numbers of Democratic-won counties include such crucial presidential battleground states as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The growing concentration of the Democratic vote One of the inexorable political trends of recent years has been the declining number of counties won by Democrats. Put simply, Democrats, particularly at the presidential level, are maintaining or increasing their electoral strength in populated areas, whether urban and

Louis Jacobson

How Donald Trump Turned Off Swing Voters in 2020

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — The number of swing voters — those who change their minds between presidential elections — has been declining over time. — However, there are still some swing voters, and they can be decisive in the nation’s highly competitive presidential elections. — Swing voters helped Joe Biden win the White House, and perceptions of Donald Trump’s stronger conservative ideology in 2020 compared to 2016 may have pushed some swing voters away from the incumbent and toward the challenger. The vital importance of a dwindling pool of swing voters Swing voters were once the most sought-after prize in American elections. A key goal of most political campaigns was to win over voters who lacked strong ties to either major party and were therefore open to supporting either side. Data from surveys conducted by the American National Election Studies show that there were once vast numbers of such swing voters and that their votes often determined the winners of presidential elections. Table 1: Swing voters as percentage of voters supporting major party candidates in consecutive elections, 1952-2020 Note: The 1980-1984 and 2008-2012 election comparisons are omitted because the ANES did not ask this question in 1984 or

Alan I. Abramowitz

Inconclusive Studies of 2020’s Pre-Election Polling Problems Could Be Good for the Industry

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Following another presidential election in which pre-election polls often understated support for Donald Trump, the polling industry is once again trying to figure out what went wrong. — An American Association for Public Opinion Research task force pointed to a lack of education weighting in its post-2016 assessment, but that did not fix the problems with 2020 polls. — That the AAPOR has not identified a specific problem with the 2020 polls may actually be a good thing for pollsters. Evaluating pre-election polling following 2020 At the 2021 virtual conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), a task force presented the findings from their official assessment of 2020 pre-election polling. [1] The findings confirmed what general suspicions and early analysis had shown: That 2020 polls collectively overstated support for Democrats in every contest and generated the highest polling errors in “at least 20 years.”[2] However, the task force was unable to determine what caused the error with the available data, only that it was “consistent with systemic non-response.” The conclusions, or lack thereof, from the task force are disappointing on one dimension. That an all-star group of hard-working researchers in the

Natalie Jackson

Like His Predecessors, Trump Suffered Down-Ballot Losses — But the Declines Were Comparatively Modest

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Like every post-World War II president, Donald Trump witnessed a fall-off in his party’s numbers of U.S. Senate, U.S. House, gubernatorial, and state legislative seats during his presidency. That said, compared to recent presidents, the erosion on Trump’s watch was more modest than it was for his immediate predecessors. — One obvious difference is that Trump had only one term in office and escaped a “six-year-itch” election. The only other postwar president to escape the down-ballot curse relatively unscathed was George H.W. Bush, who was the most recent president before Trump to be ousted after one term. — Another factor may be today’s heightened partisan polarization, which makes states and districts less “swingy” than they have been in the past. Trump’s down-ballot impact For a defeated president, Donald Trump still seems to wield a great deal of power within the Republican Party. GOP candidates are still angling for his backing, and his decision whether to run for another term looms over the emerging 2024 Republican presidential field. It may or may not be wise going forward, from a strictly electoral standpoint, for Trump to remain as central to the GOP as he is. On

Louis Jacobson

Notes on the State of Politics: May 11, 2021

Dear Readers: This is the latest edition of the Crystal Ball’s “Notes on the State of Politics,” which features short updates on elections and politics. — The Editors VA-GOV: Youngkin wins GOP nomination, race Leans Democratic for the fall Glenn Youngkin, former co-chief executive of the Carlyle Group, won the Republican nomination for the open Virginia governorship last night. He bested second-place finisher Pete Snyder, another businessman, as well as state Sen. Amanda Chase, state Del. Kirk Cox, and others. Youngkin’s victory was not a shock, at least to us — we noted in the Crystal Ball a couple of weeks ago that some of our Republican sources believed Youngkin was the favorite — but this was also an unusual contest with unusual rules. The Republican Party of Virginia opted to nominate its statewide candidates through an “unassembled convention.” Participants registered as delegates and cast ranked-choice votes at about 40 voting sites across the commonwealth. While roughly 53,000 registered to be delegates, just over 30,000 raw votes were cast. That’s close to four times the number of participants in the most recent Virginia gubernatorial convention (2013), but less than a tenth of the turnout in the most recent Republican gubernatorial

Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman

Checking in on Biden’s Approval Rating as Hundred Days’ Mark Nears

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Joe Biden’s approval rating has been steady and positive, though many other presidents had better early numbers. — The “honeymoons” of past presidents may have been stronger because of a less partisanized and polarized electorate. — Individual national pollsters disagree on Biden’s approval rating. — Some pollsters who were overly bullish on Biden in the national popular vote last year are a little bearish on him now. A first “Hundred Days” temperature check on Biden The term “Hundred Days,” used to denote the opening few months of a new presidency, entered the American political lexicon with the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. With the help of large congressional Democratic majorities and the impetus of the Great Depression, FDR’s whirlwind Hundred Days “forged Roosevelt’s principal weapons in the battle against the Depression and shaped much of the New Deal’s historical reputation,” wrote David Kennedy in Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. The term has an older, historical significance: It describes Napoleon’s brief return to France in 1815 following his initial exile to Elba, culminating in his final defeat at Waterloo. In any event, the Hundred Days’ mark has become a

Kyle Kondik

NOW AVAILABLE: A Return to Normalcy? Our Book on the 2020 Election

A Return to Normalcy? The 2020 Election That (Almost) Broke America — the University of Virginia Center for Politics’ new look at the 2020 presidential election and its consequences — is now available through UVA Bookstores, Indiebound, and other online booksellers. Edited by Crystal Ball editors Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik, and J. Miles Coleman, A Return to Normalcy? brings together what Booklist calls a “stellar coterie of reporters, pundits, and scholars” to “parse the 2020 election via a data-driven set of analytics displayed in useful charts and graphs, drawing conclusions that will satisfy hard-core political junkies and provide a solid foundation for everyone looking ahead to 2022 and 2024.” Tonight (Thursday, April 8) at 6:30 p.m. eastern, four of the book contributors will participate in a free virtual forum: “Taking Stock: The Societal Impact of the 2020 Election.” Business Insider‘s Grace Panetta will moderate. She wrote a chapter on the massive expansion of early and mail-in voting necessitated by the pandemic. In it, she notes how President Trump’s criticism of mail-in voting “represented a stark reversal for the GOP because it upended decades of Republican get-out-the-vote strategy — in the process baffling and upsetting numerous Republican candidates and operatives.

UVA Center for Politics

Demographics and Expectations: Analyzing Biden and Trump’s Performances

Dear Readers: This month, the Center for Politics will be releasing its biennial post-election book, A Return to Normalcy? The 2020 Election That (Almost) Broke America. For this volume, several top journalists, academics, and analysts partnered with the Center for Politics’ team to analyze last year’s historic election. Next week, Business Insider Senior Politics Reporter Grace Panetta, a contributing author, will host a panel featuring three other writers who contributed to the book. They are: — Alan Abramowitz, Crystal Ball Senior Columnist and Professor of Political Science, Emory University — David Byler, Data Analyst and Political Columnist, the Washington Post — Madelaine Pisani, Senate Campaigns Reporter, National Journal This virtual event, titled Taking Stock: The Societal Impact of the 2020 Election, will begin at 6:30 p.m. eastern on Thursday, April 8. Registration is free and can be found at this link. If you can’t watch live, we’ll post the video on our YouTube channel, UVACFP, following the event. The book is available for pre-order through UVA Bookstores. Those who missed our first A Return to Normalcy? panel last week with Crystal Ball Managing Editor Kyle Kondik, Theodore Johnson of the Brennan Center for Justice, Diana Owen of Georgetown University, and Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics can watch

Lakshya Jain

Assessing the Impact of Absentee Voting on Turnout and Democratic Vote Margin in 2020

Dear Readers: Tomorrow at noon, the McIntire School of Commerce will be hosting a virtual event featuring Sonja Hoel Perkins, a UVA alumna. A preeminent venture capitalist and philanthropist, she’s put a special emphasis on improving the careers of women and girls. Perkins sits on the Center for Politics’ Board, and we’re thankful for her support. We encourage our readers to consider tuning in to what should be a fascinating conversation. Registration for this free virtual event is at this link. — The Editors KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — While the 2020 presidential election saw a record volume of absentee votes cast, not all states made it equally accessible. — Eased absentee voting rules contributed to higher voter participation rates. — With higher turnout, President Joe Biden’s performance still tracked closely with Hillary Clinton’s state-by-state results in 2016 — he just performed slightly better across the board. — All told, the sharp increase in absentee voting in 2020 wasn’t disproportionately beneficial to either presidential candidate. Examining the electoral consequences of 2020’s absentee vote The 2020 presidential election was remarkable in many respects. First and foremost, despite taking place in the midst of a deadly pandemic that would result in

Alan I. Abramowitz

As Biden Takes Office, Trump’s Shadow is Inescapable – at Least for Now

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Even as a new president is inaugurated today, the outgoing president looms large. — As Senate Republicans ponder how to vote in the Trump impeachment trial, they may be incentivized to move the party past Trump as they seek to recapture power in Washington next year. Trump’s shadow Given Donald Trump’s ability to dominate the news both before and during his presidency, it is perhaps not surprising that he remains the subject of the most immediately pressing political question in Washington: Should Senate Republicans use the pending impeachment trial in the Senate to forbid the outgoing president from holding public office again? Practically speaking, that’s what the stakes of the looming impeachment trial are, which will begin sometime in the coming days (after Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi passes the article of impeachment to the Senate). Trump will no longer be president at noon Wednesday, and thus he cannot be removed from office. But if Trump is convicted by a two-thirds vote in the upper chamber, the Senate can then ban Trump from holding office in the future through a simple majority vote. The decision may largely be up to one man:

Kyle Kondik

The Objectors Versus the Rejecters

Dear Readers: Last night, UVA Center for Politics Director Larry J. Sabato interviewed Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) about last week’s chaos on Capitol Hill, the moment he “knew there was a massive disaster that was underway,” possible sanctions for fellow lawmakers who participated in instigating the Capitol insurrection, the Democrats’ priorities in the Senate now that the party has nominal control of the chamber, and much more. To watch, see here or visit our YouTube channel, UVACFP. And in case you missed it, make sure you check out last week’s Democracy Dialogues, in which Prof. Sabato discussed the Capitol attack, the Georgia Senate runoffs, and much more with former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ), CBS News’ Margaret Brennan, CNN’s Don Lemon, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, former Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Chris Krebs, and commentators Paul Begala and Tara Setmayer. That program is also available on our YouTube channel and at this direct link. UVA Today and the Cavalier Daily also recapped the program. In this week’s Crystal Ball, we’re taking a closer look at something many of you have heard a lot about but perhaps, because of everything else, did not get

Kyle Kondik