A recent ‘Cook Political Report’ revealed that of the groups where Donald Trump is losing votes, his greatest loss of support is from whites with a college degree and from voters aged over 65. Compared to 2016, national polling reveals a 20% net loss of support from the latter and a 12% net loss of support amongst the former. Interestingly this is compared to a 6% net gain in support from Black African Americans (as compared to 2016) and a 10% net gain amongst Hispanics. Albeit, this still leaves him far behind Joe Biden in winning support from these minority groups.
Two states where Trump’s loss of votes from white college degree Americans will have a significant effect are Texas and Georgia; where a high proportion of this demographic group reside. In the case of Georgia, this is not the only worry Republicans currently express.
After most of southern America turned against the Democratic Party when they passed the 1964 civil rights act, Georgia has voted Republican at almost every election. Since 1972 there have only been two exceptions and this came when the Democrats put forward candidates from the south: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Despite this, Donald Trump’s margin of victory over Hilary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election was a narrow one of 5%.
Since 2016 matters have got more troubling for the Republicans. In the state’s 2018 gubernatorial race, Democrat Stacey Abrams came within only 1.4% of completing a surprise upset against Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Kemp was inheriting a 7.8% lead from the Republican incumbent Nathan Deal who had been elected back in 2014.
It was the locations where Abrams’ won support that revealed one of the electoral issues facing Republicans in the state. Fulton County, which includes the city of Atlanta, reflects the changing demographic and electoral pattern of Georgia. In 2012 Obama won Fulton County by 19%, Clinton increased this to 44% in 2016, before Abrams won the county by 46% in 2018.
This rapid strengthening of the Democrat vote is explained by a loss in support from suburban voters for Trump – something that has grown worse as his term in office has progressed – along with an increase in African Americans in Georgia’s urban centres. In Fulton County, 46.4% of inhabitants are white, compared to 44.3% who are black/African American. This reflects an increase in the urban black/African American demographic across the state, with the share of the electorate who are black/African American being more than double the national average.
Something that will also help the Democrats is that Georgia is getting younger: in 2008 it had the third-lowest proportion of people aged 65+ out of all American states. In 2018 this group made up 14.3% of inhabitants. Any lead Trump has amongst the elderly wanes in significance in Georgia, whilst the ethnic minority vote plays a far more significant role.
The impact of these demographic changes, along with the negative effect Trump’s presidency has had in persuading urban and suburban voters to support the Republicans, has been felt down the ballot in Senate races. In November there are two Senate seats up for election, with the one held by Republican David Perdue one to watch. Perdue has become a keen ally to Donald Trump in Washington and thus his polling is likely to be attached to the fortunes of the President. Especially as recent studies show how across America, Senate elections are increasingly mirroring the outcome of national votes.
Whilst Perdue is currently leading in the polls against the democratic challenger Jon Ossoff his lead has ,according to a Republican polling firm, narrowed to only 2%. In the Presidential race, Trump leads Biden 48% to 46% in the ‘270 to win’ average polling result. Republican weaknesses however, are visible. For instance, Perdue’s favourability rating is at its lowest in the city of Atlanta compared to elsewhere across Georgia.
Although demographic and polling trends indicate a state that is likely to be contested this November, whether it turns Democrat in 2020 will be partly shaped by who turns out to vote. In a recent Fox News Poll conducted in late July, several findings reveal a complex interaction between the national race and state turnout.
- Joe Biden voters are more energised to vote out of a dislike for Trump than out of any love for Biden: ‘53% of Biden supporters want to vote Biden out of fear’ Trump may win. Comparatively, ‘57% of Trump’ supporters ‘are energised to vote’ out of support for their candidate.
- 64% of voters are ‘extremely motivated to come out and vote’: with white men and older voters slightly more motivated than the state average.
- When it came to who is better suited to handle several key issues: Trump led on the economy by 8%, but Biden on Covid led by 4%, and over the issue of immigration by 2%.
Whilst there is relatively high enthusiasm amongst all voters in Georgia, for Biden to be successful he needs to run a campaign that focusses mainly on Trump’s failings. This finding is what makes predicting a Biden victory not as certain as some may believe. Trump leads Biden on the economy, and if the impact of Covid had decreased by November (and by extension the economic position of the country has improved) then Trump is in a far strengthened position. This is something that should worry a Biden campaign that rests mainly on the hope that voters are motivated to support the Biden because of Trump’s failings as President. It is this enthusiasm gap that could become increasingly significant in whether Biden can break Republican strongholds like Georgia.
In the challenge of converting these underlying population and political trends into votes, it is worth noting the work of Stacy Abrams and what she achieved in her 2018 run for Governor. Abrams’ ‘Fair Fight Action Group’ has successfully registered 750,000 new voters since 2018 in Georgia, with half of them from an ethnic background and most of them younger voters. A consequence of these efforts was seen in the 2020 Democratic Primary when there was a record turnout. Something Joe Biden will need amongst his supporters to cause a real upset in the state in 100 days time.