More than five decades after the Civil Rights Act, we are still trying to unwind housing segregation and school segregation. But what about electoral segregation?
The electorate that endorsed Biden was a racial coalition, while the electorate that endorsed Trump was almost uniformly white. Just as important, the electorate that put Biden way over the top were first-time voters. Veteran voters split evenly for the major party candidates, 49% to 49%. But new voters, many of them voters of color, broke two-to-one for Biden, handing him his seven million-vote victory. No wonder Republicans would like to have fewer of these new voters return in two or four years.
If whites only had voted, Trump would not have needed to make his spurious claims of election fraud. Exit polls show that Trump won the white electorate by a huge margin, 17 percentage points, 58-41%. Trump won not just a majority of white voters and white men as expected, but white women too. So much for speculation that white women had regrets about 2016 and wouldn’t again cast their vote for Trump. He won white women by the impressive margin of 55-44%.
Young people, of course, were different, right? No. Trump won in every age category of white voters, including besting Biden by nine percentage points among white voters aged 18-34.
Surely, college makes a difference. Yes. Trump won whites without a college degree by a thumping two-to-one margin. But still, among white voters with college degrees, Trump essentially split their vote with Biden, losing by merely three percentage points, 48-51%.
So, do these huge differences in voting preferences reflect a real difference in racial attitudes? Sure. Voters who have an unfavorable view of Black Lives Matter, broke overwhelmingly for Trump, 86-14%. Those who think the criminal justice system treats all people fairly–rather than treating Black people unfairly—broke overwhelmingly for Trump, 84-14%. Those who think racism in the U.S. is “not an important problem” broke for Trump by exactly the same margin, 84-14%.
On the flip side, a majority of all voters (69%) conceded that “racism is an important problem” and voted for Biden by more than two-to-one (68-30%). A majority of all voters (53%) also agreed Black people are treated unfairly by the criminal justice system and they voted for Biden by an even wider margin, four-to-one (82-17%).
But things are different in New Jersey, right? Ours is a solid blue state where Democrats control the two US Senate seats, ten of twelve congressional seats, the governor’s mansion and both houses of the legislature. We are progressive and diverse.
But wrong. Pre-election polling revealed that if only white New Jersey had voted and not all of New Jersey, the Garden State’s 14 electors would have dropped into the Trump column. White voters preferred Trump by a margin of 48 to 44 percent.
Two parallel news stories tell the plight of the nation’s, and New Jersey’s, electoral segregation. First, Trump’s and Biden’s cabinets reflect that tale of two electorates. The loser’s cabinet was overwhelming white. The winner’s is a coalition of communities, to include five black Americans and a black Vice President. Second, Republican legislators across the nation are now furiously introducing bills to increase election “integrity,” by decreasing access to voting. The loser’s party is not thrilled about the influx of new voters, many of them voters of color, who made such an impact on the outcome.
Peter J. Woolley is a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University where he is the founder of the FDU Poll and Director of FDU’s School of Public and Global Affairs.
(Exit polls conducted with over 15,000 voters are a bit different from the usual political polls. Pre-election polls have to guess who is really a likely voter and who is not. Some people will declare their intention to vote, but won’t vote; some will express slight interest in the election, but vote anyway. The pre-election pollster is bound to guess wrong up to 30% of the time. But the exit pollster knows exactly who has actually voted and lots more. Most importantly, exit polls tells us what types of people voted for which candidate and how they see the major issues of the day. The clearest message from the exit polls of the 2020 election is that America has two electorates. One electorate is almost exclusively white. The other consists of a varied coalition of whites, blacks and browns and others.)