The United States Presidential Election 2020 has crept up on us. Despite being considered the most consequential election in decades by most Americans – not least by the Biden campaign – the pandemic election has become almost an afterthought to the virus itself. Yet, despite seeming a far more low-key affair than in a normal year, Americans are more fired up than ever and are likely to smash all turnout records.
Much of Joe Biden’s campaign has focused on finding voters who did not vote last time but had voted for Obama in 2012. Hillary Clinton struggled, not because people voted for Trump in droves, but because her base did not turn up on the day, handing narrow victories to Trump in a number of key swing states.
Much of Biden’s campaign has focused on identifying these voters and getting them to “vote, and vote early.” This has seen all early voting turnout records smashed, particularly amongst young people, who are the most likely demographic to vote Democratic. Key swing states Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida have seen as much as a 6-fold increase on early voting from 2016 amongst 18-29-year-old voters, showing that Biden is galvanising his base far more effectively than Clinton had done four years ago.
Florida has seen early and postal voting figures almost match the entirety of those who cast a ballot in 2016. With the Coronavirus pandemic leading to many fearful of polling place queues (which in the United States can often be more than two hours long), there has been a rapid increase in those requesting postal ballots, or heading to the voting booth in the weeks before election day.
As they say, everything is bigger in Texas; this goes for voting too. Where Florida has almost matched its 2016 total before election day, Texas surpassed the total vote toll from 2016 days ago, with 10 million people casting ballots in the state, leading many to believe that it could actually swing Democratic for the first time since Jimmy Carter carried the state in 1976.
Should Texas go blue, the election is over for Trump. It has 38 Electoral College votes, meaning that even if Trump held onto some of the swing states that remain close in the polls (Florida, Wisconsin and North Carolina) he would still be handed a comfortable defeat.
Polling still suggests that Trump should carry Texas and that Biden will carry many of the traditional swing states, with a healthy polling lead in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina and Florida – all states that Trump won in 2016.
This is the point where many cry that Clinton had a healthy lead over Trump in 2016 and still lost, which, although not anywhere near as healthy a lead as Biden, is true. In 2016, Clinton headed into election day with a national average lead of around 4 points, Biden head in with almost double that.
National polling is of course not important in the Electoral College, but the main difference from 2016 is enthusiasm. Whilst early voting was always likely to be higher than in 2016 due to the pandemic, the current projections show that voters are far more motivated than in previous years. High turnout elections tend to favour Democrats.
Polling tends to differ from the result only where they misunderstand likely voters. It was expected in 2016 that Clinton would retain the same enthusiasm as Barack Obama twice had, and although it is likely that the polling was accurate in terms of how eligible voters felt, many Clinton voters just didn’t show up.
Biden’s “vote, and vote early” messaging has been clearly getting through the turnout records being smashed suggests that his base are motivated and likely to not just have shown up early, but will continue to show up on election day.
Whilst we may see fewer voters showing up on the day than usual, because so many have voted early, we are still likely to see an extremely high turnout election. That bodes well for Biden.