A pivotal state and one with a history of having close voting outcomes

Originally Published at Shout Out UK on Friday 16th October 2020.

For both candidates victory in Florida is essential to taking the White House. Without it, Donald Trump will certainly face defeat on November 3.

Joe Biden would need to considerable gains in redder states elsewhere to make up for Florida’s 29 electoral college votes.


Who will get the pivotal vote?

Evidence of Florida’s importance was seen in the candidates’ visits to the state this week. A reflection too of how close both camps deem the vote there to be. Indeed, in 2012 Obama beat Romney by only 0.9 per cent, and in 2016 Trump edged Clinton by just 1.2 per cent.

But what are the voting groups and counties that need to be won in Florida? And what are the signs to watch out for on election night, as the results from one of America’s greatest swing states are counted?

1. Trump won big numbers of votes from older whiter counties

The median age of Florida is 42.2, almost five years older than the American national average. This is down to a number of counties with significantly older populations, of whom significant proportions are white American. It was in these places where Donald Trump tallied up the most votes.

In an area known as the Red South, Trump extended the lead Romney enjoyed by up to 10 per cent in some places. If we take five counties in this area, we can see such a pattern. Collier, Glades, Lee, Monroe, and St Lucie all voted Trump in 2016, and all have an age profile — except Glades — higher than the state’s average. Trump succeeded in taking Monroe, and St Lucie — both of which had voted for Obama in 2012.

CountyWhite Residents (State average is 74.7%)Aged over 65 (State average 17.3%)Trump Vote Share %Trump Lead Vs Romney
Collier83.8524.561.8-3%
Glades76.9918.868.8+10%
Lee7123.558.7+1%
Monroe89.5014.651.6+2%
St Lucie71.8019.949.9+2%

A similar reliance on older voters comes in Escambia County, where Trump won 58.3 per cent of the vote and in Jefferson, a county Trump won with 51.4 per cent to Clinton’s 46.3 per cent, and that had voted Obama in 2012. Here 16.5 per cent of voters are aged over 65 — slightly less than the counties above, and thus reflecting the conservative nature of voters there being less dependent on age.

Will Covid-19 allow Biden to eat into Trump’s support?

Florida has experienced one of the worst death rates from Covid-19 out of the 52 States. It sits with the 11th highest rate, with 72 people per 100,000 having died from the disease. And of course this affects those older voters on whom Trump relies the most.

2. What about the suburbs?

Hillary Clinton won big in Florida’s urban centres, and would have succeeded in taking Duval County if Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson had not stood as a third-party ticket and taken 2.6 per cent of the vote. She lost to Trump by 2.5 per cent. Here, due to an increasingly younger population and Democrats’ support in urban areas — Jacksonville City has had a recent influx in younger workers for its tech industry — we can expect Biden to perform well. In the middle-class suburbs it will be interesting to see if he can extend Clinton’s lead. In the I-4 area of Florida, Clinton overall outperformed Obama in 2012.

Some I-4 Area Counties

CountyObama 2012 VoteClinton Vote
Orange58.760.4
Osceola61.960.9
Seminole46.247.1

A reflection of the demographics of these counties can be found in Seminole where Clinton won an additional 9,469 votes. The average age is 36 with its income far higher than the state average at $49,326, compared to $30,197.

How can Biden persuade these voters?

It seems after the first debate many suburban, particularly female, voters were put off by Trump’s ‘unpresidential behaviour’, and it may be that through advocating his character is where Biden has the most chance of persuasion. Republicans had hoped the race riots would swing such suburbs back towards them, but with the debate concerning race not having shifted from racial discrimination to violence / riots, that now seems more unlikely.

3. The Hispanic vote

Joe Biden outperforms Hillary Clinton in another battleground state of Arizona when it comes to polls amongst the Hispanic vote. But not in the state of Florida. Why? That’s mainly because three in eight of the state’s Hispanic voters are Cuban (three quarters of all Cubans in America), who in 2016 voted for Trump by a 13 per cent margin. In contrast, non-Cuban Hispanics voted for Clinton by a 45 per cent margin. The counties where this battle will be fought out most are Miami-Dade, Monroe and Lafayette.

What’s crucial this November is not particularly Trump winning these counties — many of which, such as Miami-Dade, were areas where Clinton gained more votes than Obama due to her higher support from urban areas nationally — but rather, stopping Biden from creating blue strongholds that will be hard to offset elsewhere. A poll last month found Trump lagged behind Biden 38 per cent to 55 per cent in Miami-Dade. But in 2016 Trump lost the area by almost 290,000 votes, and still carried the overall state vote by 2.1 per cent. The Cuban-American vote in Florida could be enough to help tip the state towards Trump.