The 2020 elections can be considered a milestone for American history voter turnout- as voters across the country showed up to the polls, the highest voter turnout in history was recorded. It is crucial to note the differences between voting demographics in 2016 and 2020 though. As Biden took the lead nationally, he was able to improve significantly upon Hillary Clinton’s performance within many groups and voting blocs. 

The 2016 elections culminated with 304 electoral votes for Trump and 227 for Clinton. On the other hand, 2020 produced an inverse of these results, with Biden winning 306 votes to Trump’s 232. In order to understand how Biden was able to flip the electoral college results, we must look at the voting trends of major demographics, which were widely different in 2016 and 2020. 

In both the 2016 and 2020 elections, Trump lost the popular vote, although in 2016 Trump’s success in flipping major states- Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Florida into Republican territory gained him more electoral college votes. Counter to this, in 2020 Biden succeeded in flipping Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, and Nebraska’s into democratic territory, and gained the electoral lead. 

Both in 2016 and 2020 younger voters favored the Democratic candidacy. The biggest difference though was in older voter trends. In 2016 older Americans voted for Trump, but in 2020 this age group was split between the party’s. In the end, Biden gained advantage in every age-related voting group in 2020, and the only gain that Trump achieved was among 30-44 years. 

In 2020,  Biden gained two percentage points of support from voters in the oldest voting demographic. Most analysts attribute this to the Trump administration’s handling of Covid-19, as many older citizens did not agree with his policy on the matter. 

Beyond age, we find that cities intensely voted for the Democrat candidate in both the 2016 and 2020 elections, with rural areas voting for Trump in both years. The difference was that suburb voting trends, which swung from Republican in 2016 to Democratic in 2020. In 2016 Trump won 49% of the vote in the suburbs, a 4% increase compared to Clinton. In 2020 though, Biden won 50% of the votes from suburbs, two points more than Trump, and 5 more than Clinton. Furthermore, Trump seemingly lost four percent points in small and rural cities, dropping from 61% support in 2016 to 57% in 2020. Biden gained in these groups in 2020 compared to Clinton, winning 42% of the rural vote. 

Beyond age and location, voters with higher educations in both the 2016 and 2020 elections tended to vote for the Democratic candidate. Trump gained 3 percentage points among voters who never attended college in 2020. Biden though, was able to outperform drastically within voters with an advanced degree, winning 62% of the vote from post-graduate degree holders, 25% higher than Trump who only received 37% of this vote.

More women voted for the Democratic candidate in both 2016 and 2020, although Biden was able to make gains over Clinton’s campaign, receiving 3 additional points from women than Clinton did in 2016. Additionally, Biden also gained 1 point percentage from male voters. 

People of color voted for the Democratic nominee in both elections, although Trump gained control of the majority of white voters in both elections. Hispanic voters on the other hand, who had voted 63% for Clinton in 2016, dropped to 59% for Biden in 2020. Trump gained an additional three percent vote for hispanics in 2020. 

Voters with family incomes below $50,000 preferred Clinton and Biden in both elections. Incomes above $100,000 though were split between both parties, with Biden winning a narrow lead in 2020. Trump won the lead among highest-earning voters in 2020. 

Lastly, moderate voters tended to choose Biden over Trump in 2020, and Biden gained a 6 percent lead compared to Trump. He increased this lead by 12 points compared to Clinton’s 2016 campaign efforts. Additionally, conservative voters were four points more likely to vote for Trump in 2020 than they were in 2016, and liberal voters were five percent more likely to vote for Biden in 2020 compared to 2016.

 All in all, we find that Biden was able to make substantial leads compared to Trump and Clinton within various demographics. He won significant advantages among younger voters, older voters, cities urban and rural areas, voters with higher education, lower incomes families, women, and moderates – which led to his 74 electoral college advantage.

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