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New Pew Study Explains Joe Biden's 2020 Presidential Victory


We now have the clearest picture yet of how Joe Biden won the White House, and we're learning more about where Donald Trump made inroads with voters, inroads that Republicans might find encouraging going into next year's midterms. It's all because of a big new report on the 2020 election from the Pew Research Center. NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben is here with the details. Hello.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Before we get to where Trump improved, can we talk sort of generally about what happened in 2020? What does this latest data tell us?

KURTZLEBEN: Sure. So on some level, this data quantifies some things we already knew or at least suspected. So, for example, let's start with Joe Biden. He did well in suburbs, and he won a slight majority of those voters, particularly white suburban voters. This data does allow them to specify that. In addition, Joe Biden made increases over Hillary Clinton with men and some men in particular - again, white men, married men, college-educated men, and that key voting bloc of Black voters who are a big part of the Democrats' base. Black voters stuck with Biden, around 9 in 10 of them did, just as they did in 2016.

Now, let's go to Donald Trump, who you mentioned. Some groups did swing towards him this time. One is Hispanics. Pew's data shows that Trump made gains here, getting 38% of Hispanic voters' support. In addition to that, we know he made gains among women, especially white women. He had a small gain among millennials. And then there's white evangelicals. Now, they are always Republican, and they were even more Republican last year.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The election was eight months ago. Why are we getting this data now? And what's so special about it?

KURTZLEBEN: So this is what Pew calls its validated voter report. People who watch polls really, really wait for this after elections these days. Pew did this in 2016 and 2018 as well. This is considered a much better estimate of voters and of demographics than exit polls are. So what Pew does - they take their survey responses, and then they match the respondents to public state voter records. Now, those public records, they don't say who you voted for, but they do say that you voted. That eliminates the possibility of Pew's survey overreporting how many people voted, which is a thing that does happen in surveys, that sometimes people say they voted when they didn't.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What else are we learning about this data about why Hispanics moved 10% towards Trump?

KURTZLEBEN: Sure. So, of course, we can't really get into the, you know, psychological motivations, but we can get into the nuances of how groups voted. And one among Hispanics is an education gap. College-educated Hispanic voters were more likely than noncollege-educated Hispanic voters to vote for Joe Biden. We often in our reporting talk a lot about white, non-Hispanic, noncollege-educated voters, but this trend really can transcend ethnicity.

One more thing I do want to get to is the gender gap. That's the thing we were really watching going into 2020, is the Hispanic gender gap, how big it might be, because women across races and ethnicities tend to vote more Democratic than men, and there was some evidence going into 2020 that that might be particularly big among Hispanics. But Pew didn't really find evidence of that, so that's also pretty interesting.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It is. But that figure you said earlier, that Trump won 38% of Hispanic voters, I mean, that is a substantial portion of the voting bloc.

KURTZLEBEN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, if you look at some historical context, that 38% is very close to the 40% that George W. Bush got in 2004, according to those exit polls. And that 40% is a really important figure because it's a recent high watermark for Republicans with Hispanic voters. So what this may signal is that Trump did a fair bit of outreach among Hispanic voters in 2020 and that that outreach worked in that he gained some Hispanic voters back.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to circle back to the question of gender because you pointed out that the partisan gender gap shrank last year, which is really interesting.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah. And one group I want to highlight here is white men. Biden gained eight points with white men over how Hillary Clinton performed with that group in 2016. There was a bigger swing among white men than there was among white women. And the interesting question for any of these numbers is why that happened, right? So looking at these white men, it appears that some share who voted third party or who just didn't vote for Clinton or Trump in 2016 or who didn't show up in 2016 turned around four years later and came out and voted for Biden. So we can't really know exactly why any of this happened. But looking at these numbers, it's really hard not to think about the fact that the historic gender gap we had in 2016, a year that was also historic for having the first woman major party nominee, that gap shrank last year when there was no woman at the top of the ticket.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's a very interesting point. That's NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben. Thank you very much.

KURTZLEBEN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF IVY SONG, "FASCINATED") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.