America’s Electoral Future
Demographic Shifts and the Future of the Trump Coalition
By Rob Griffin, Ruy Teixeira, and William H. Frey
Going out further, Florida is added to the Democratic column by 2024; North Carolina by 2028; and Georgia and Arizona by 2032. Although it doesn’t flip, a
Republican candidate would win Texas by just 2.2 points in 2036 under 2016 conditions.
2016: Third party comes home
One of the unique features of the 2016 election was the relatively high third-party vote. Nationally, third-party candidates in 2016 collectively garnered about 4 points
more than they did in 2012—5.7 percent versus 1.7 percent. While it is possible that similarly high levels of support will appear in future elections, the historical
trend would suggest that a decline is more likely after a spike. (see Figure 4) Given that trend, the authors developed a separate 2016 baseline where third-party
vote share is returned to its lower 2012 levels and the rest of the third-party vote share is reallocated based on underlying partisan preferences.
Under this third-party reallocation scenario, the result of projecting forward 2016 voter preferences and turnout is very interesting indeed: an exact tie of 269-269 in
the Electoral College in 2020. This is because Wisconsin remains in the Republican column, despite demographic changes.
Even more interesting, the authors believe this 269-269 tie should probably be counted as a Republican win. This is because, while the simulation assigns Maine
to the Democrats, it is likely that the GOP might still carry the 2nd Congressional District in the state, based on 2016 voting patterns, which would give them one
additional electoral vote—enough to tip the election to the Republicans with a win of 270-268. Moreover, even if the electoral vote was an exact tie, probable
Republican advantages in control of House of Representatives delegations—each state delegation gets only one vote—would also likely result in a GOP victory.
Communities of color
Between 2016 and 2036, the authors expect minorities to constitute an additional 10 percent of all EVs—going from 31 percent to 41 percent, respectively. While all
of the projections presented in this report reflect this rapidly changing demographic landscape, the following scenarios explore how behavioral changes among
these voters might shape future elections.
In the modern political era, the turnout rates of black, Hispanic, Asian, and other race voters have typically lagged behind that of whites. According to the report’s
analysis, this was true in 2016 among every age group. (see Figure 5) What would be the electoral consequences of closing these gaps, so that turnout within age
and education groups was equal across racial categories?
Introduction and summary
The recent elections of Donald Trump and Barack Obama were influenced in no small measure by shifts in the nation’s underlying demographic structure—the
rise of communities of color, the increase in the number of older Americans, the sharpening of education divisions—and the distinctive voting behavior of these
demographic groups. This 2018 report of the States of Change project, the fourth in an annual series, examines an array of future presidential election outcome
scenarios—from 2020 through 2036—that could arise as the demography of the nation and its 50 states changes over the next 18 years.
These scenarios, developed by the authors, include outcomes that favor both Republican and Democratic candidates. They are not intended as predictions but
are simulations based on assumptions about different demographic groups’ future voting patterns. Each of the alternative scenarios assumes the same
projections for the nation’s underlying demographic structure of eligible voters (EVs) with respect to race, age, and education attainment. As such, the scenarios
provide for a more in-depth understanding than national or state polling trends can supply about how emerging voting patterns may interact with changes in the
demography of the nation’s electorate to affect future popular vote and Electoral College outcomes.
Many analysts suggest that if current voting patterns remain the same as in recent elections, the projected rise of communities of color—Hispanics, blacks,
Asians, and others—will favor Democrats as the Republican-leaning white share of the electorate shrinks. However, the aging of the population and the continued
substantial political clout of whites without college educations played a key role in electing Republican Donald Trump. Because the demography of these latter
groups differs across states in ways that tend to benefit Republicans, this report finds that quite a few future scenarios could mimic the result of the 2016
election—a Democratic win in the popular vote with a Republican win in the Electoral College.
The 2020 through 2036 presidential election scenarios presented here are of four types:
1. Assuming 2012 and 2016 voting patterns in future elections: Not surprisingly, a scenario that attributes the voting patterns of all groups from Obama’s 2012
win to future more racially diverse populations, yields solid Democratic popular vote and Electoral College wins from 2020 through 2036.
More surprisingly, changing demography has a clear impact on future outcomes when Trump’s 2016 voting patterns are attributed to the 2020 population. Here
the modest shift toward more racially diverse voting populations in several states is enough to provide Democratic wins in both the popular vote and Electoral
College—not only in 2020 but in subsequent elections.
However, the 2016 election result was unusual because of a high level of third-party voters. When those extra third-party voters are allocated back to one of the two
major parties, based on underlying partisan preferences, projections to 2020 show a dead heat in the Electoral College.
2. Voting assumptions about communities of color: Several scenarios assume that future voting patterns of racial groups will differ markedly from those
observed in 2016. Taking note that whites tend to have the highest voting turnout rates of all racial groups, a scenario that assumes that all racial groups turn out
at the same rate improves the voting clout of racial minorities, especially Hispanics and Asians. When this assumption is made—while leaving other aspects of
2016 voting constant—Democrats win both the popular and Electoral College votes in 2020 as well as subsequent elections. Additional scenarios for blacks
assume their 2012 turnout rates, their 2012 Democratic voting preferences, and both together—which factored into Obama’s election victory—continue in the
future. In all three of those black voter scenarios, Democrats win both the popular vote and Electoral College in future elections.
However, there is one scenario here that yields Republican Electoral College—though not popular vote—wins: a pro-GOP margin swing of 15 points among
Hispanics, Asians, and other nonblack racial minorities. But if these groups shift their margins by the same amount toward Democrats, the latter party wins by
large margins in 2020 and future elections.
3. White college graduate versus white noncollege-educated voting preferences: The 2016 election showed a sharp divide in Republican voting between white
college graduates and whites without college educations. Among the simulations examined, the greatest opportunity for Republicans to extend their 2016 victory
model assumes an expansion of the already-substantial voting margin that the GOP has gained among white noncollege-educated voters. When this margin is
expanded by 10 points, Republicans win both the 2020 Electoral College and popular vote. They continue to win the Electoral College—though not the popular
vote—through 2036, despite broadening diversity and other predicted changes across the country.
Several other scenarios are explored by shifting future voting patterns of white college graduates and whites without college educations in different ways. While
strong Democratic wins occur when either group shows improved Democratic support, it is clear that the most persistent gains for Republicans come from those
scenarios where they improve their appeal to noncollege-educated whites.
4. Voter group trade-offs: Several scenarios assume that voting swings toward one party on the part of one demographic group could precipitate a backlash
voting swing toward the other party among another group. One scenario postulates that an increased Republican margin of 15 points among Hispanics, Asians,
and other nonblack minority groups, perhaps due to increased outreach efforts, might trigger a swing toward greater Democratic support—back to relatively good
2012 levels—among noncollege-educated whites. In such a trade-off, Republicans would be disadvantaged and lose both the 2020 popular and Electoral
College vote. In another simulation, a Republican swing of 10 points among noncollege-educated whites is countered by Democratic swings of 10 and 15 points,
respectively, among white college graduates and among Hispanics, Asians, and other minorities. This simulation also yields 2020 Democratic popular vote and
Electoral College victories and bigger ones thereafter. But in a scenario where increased Republican success among white noncollege-educated voters is traded
for increased Democratic success among white college graduates, the GOP does gain an Electoral College victory in 2020, even while losing the popular vote.
In many of the simulations that favor Democrats in the Electoral College, especially those beyond 2020, swing states that favored Republicans in the 2016
election turn Democratic. These include Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona, in the Sun Belt, as well as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and
Ohio in the North. But in scenarios where Republicans are Electoral College victors, they retain most of their 2016 swing states and often add new ones, including
Nevada, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Maine.
The scenarios in this report suggest that there are paths for both parties to win the Electoral College in 2020 and beyond. For Republicans, future success is tied
to mobilizing their strength among whites without college educations—a still-substantial but shrinking portion of the electorate—while attaining gains among at
least some growing demographic groups. A narrow Republican reliance on noncollege-educated whites would lead, at best, to continued popular vote losses
and ever smaller Electoral College wins, which would eventually peter out.
While Democrats appear to have the advantage in future popular vote contests, their success in the Electoral College will likely require some combination of
intensifying their support among voters of color and improving their margins among white, particularly white noncollege-educated, voters. This delicate balancing
act will provide a challenge for the party that cannot be met by simply waiting for demographic change to reshape the electorate.
Demographics and the U.S. electorate
Demographics are not destiny, but steady and predictable changes to the electorate play an important role in defining the landscape of American elections. The
authors have every reason to suspect that the composition of the American electorate will change dramatically over the next five presidential elections. These
shifts—which vary considerably state by state—will force parties and candidates to recalibrate their strategies for success going forward.
This report explores how these demographic changes could shape the next five presidential elections using national and state projections produced by the States
of Change project. In a 2015 report,2 this project presented long-term projections to 2060 of race and age profiles for the populations and eligible electorates of all
50 states. The authors have since supplemented these data with education projections, further segmenting the population into those with four-year degree and
those without. This report focuses on what those projections imply for the presidential elections between 2020 and 2036 under different assumptions about future
turnout and voter preference patterns.
The States of Change: Demographics and Democracy project is a collaboration supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Democracy
Fund that brings together the Center for American Progress, the Bipartisan Policy Center, demographer William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution, and the
Public Religion Research Institute. The views expressed in this and other States of Change reports are those of the authors and not the institutions
sponsoring the project.
The project’s goals are:
• To document and analyze the challenges to democracy posed by the rapid demographic evolution from the 1970s to 2060
• To project the race-ethnic composition of every state to 2060, which has not been done in more than 20 years
• To promote a wide-ranging and bipartisan discussion of America’s demographic future and what it portends for the nation’s political parties and public policy
How is the electorate changing?
The national story
First and foremost, the eligible voter (EV) population is becoming more racially diverse. Younger, incoming generations of Americans are more racially diverse
than prior generations. As they come of voting age, they will slowly but surely alter the makeup of the electorate. Whites made up 69 percent of EVs in 2016—a
figure expected to drop to 67 percent by 2020 and 59 percent by 2036. During this time period, the Hispanic population is expected to grow by 6 points—going
from 12 percent in 2016 to 18 percent in 2036—while Asians and other racial groups grow by 3 points, or 7 percent to 10 percent. The share of EVs who are black
will be mostly stable—rising less than 1 percent between 2016 and 2032.
Second, the population is aging. Those 65 years old and older will make up a larger share of EVs—going from 21 percent in 2016 to 22 percent in 2020 and to 27
percent in 2036—while those ages 18 through 64 will shrink. While seniors will continue to be less racially diverse than younger age groups over this period,
white senior EVs as a share of all EVs will rise by only a single percentage point from 2020 to 2036. The overwhelming majority of growth in the 65 and older age
category is going to come from people of color.
Finally, the electorate is becoming more educated. This change is particularly important among whites, where the political and behavioral differences between
those with and without college degrees tend to be largest. While whites without a college degree made up 46 percent of EVs in 2016, this group is expected to
drop to 44 percent by 2020 and 37 percent by 2036.
Several Northern swing states show smaller gains in diversity. By 2036, Iowa’s EVs will still be 84 percent
white; Wisconsin’s will be 80 percent white; and Ohio’s will be 77 percent white. The populations of all three
states, as well as several of their Northern counterparts, will also be older than their counterparts in the
South and West. This could help the GOP consolidate their gains in these states, especially if white seniors
maintain their voting preferences despite generational turnover in this group.
Potential influence of demographic changes on future elections
To assess how demographic change might affect future elections, the authors performed a number of
different simulations, each of which assumes that the nation’s underlying EV population will change
according to race, age, and education projections in every state. The simulations differ only in what voter
turnout and Democratic and Republican preferences are assumed for race, age, and education groups in
the various states. However, before diving in, it is worth considering the value of such an exercise and what
can reasonably be learned from it.
First and foremost, these are simulations—not predictions. When talking about results under a given set of
assumptions, the authors are not expressing the belief that this is what will happen in a given presidential
election. At heart, these are thought experiments—revealing tomorrow’s contours under a certain set of
Additionally, those assumptions will almost certainly be wrong in ways both big and small. While the
expectations the authors have about the underlying race, age, and education makeup of the electorate are
probably the soundest of their assumptions, those pertaining to voter behavior are more likely to stray from
reality. This is not a problem unique to this endeavor—the future itself is inherently uncertain—but it is one
worth keeping in mind. As such, the results presented here are best thought of as baselines rather than
This report investigates four types of scenarios to see how the electoral future might look under a variety of
assumptions. These are:
1. If future turnout and party preferences by group match those of the most recent presidential elections
2. If turnout or support levels shift significantly among communities of color: blacks, Hispanics, Asians,
• White noncollege-educated voter support like 2012: Democrats would carry the popular vote by almost 6 points and win the Electoral College 347-191,
including taking back Ohio and Iowa.
• White college-educated voters swing to Democrats: Democrats would win the popular vote by more than 6 points and win the Electoral College by 334-
204, including a flip of Arizona.
• White college-educated voters swing to GOP: Democrats would still carry the popular vote very narrowly by .2 points, but Republicans would win the
Electoral College by 323-215, flipping states such as Maine and Minnesota.
• White college-educated voter support like 2012: Democrats would win the popular vote by only a little more than 1 point and the GOP would narrowly carry
the Electoral College 273-265.
Voter group trade-offs
• Hispanics, Asians, and other races for white noncollege-educated voters trade-off: In a scenario where Republicans trade more new voter of color support
for less white noncollege-educated voter support, the Democrats would carry the popular vote by more than 3 points, and the GOP would lose the electoral
college 279-259, as Rust Belt states flip back to the Democrats.
• White college graduates for white noncollege-educated voters trade-off: In a scenario where Republicans trade more white noncollege-educated voter
support for less white college support, the GOP loses the popular vote by a little under 3 points but carries the Electoral College 309-229.
• Hispanics, Asians, and other races and white college graduates for white noncollege-educated voters trade-off: In a scenario where Republicans trade
more white noncollege-educated voter support for less support among Hispanics, Asians, and other races as well as white college graduates, Democrats
would win the popular vote by 5 points and the Electoral College 309-229, including a flip of Arizona.
Like most trends, the changes occurring
nationally are not evenly distributed. Some
places are changing quickly and others much
more slowly. This will naturally shape how
quickly states respond politically to overall
Sharp increases in diversity can be highlighted
by looking at those states where racial
minorities should comprise more than 40
percent of the eligible electorate. In 2020, there
should be six states over this threshold: four
states—Hawaii, New Mexico, California, and
Texas for the first time, as well as the District of
Columbia—where minorities are more than half
of EVs, plus Maryland and Georgia, where
minorities will make up between 40 percent and
50 percent of EVs. By 2036, eight additional
states should cross the 40 percent threshold:
Arizona, Alaska, New Jersey, Nevada, Florida,
Mississippi, New York, and Louisiana. Also four additional states should have majority-minority eligible electorates: Texas in 2019, Nevada in 2030, Maryland in
2031, and Georgia in 2036.
At the other end of the continuum, the number of states where whites exceed 80 percent of EVs should be reduced from 23 states in 2020 to just 11 states in
2036. In 2036, the 11 still-heavily white states should include the three upper New England states of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire; the Southern states of
West Virginia and Kentucky; the Midwestern states of North Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin; and the Western states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Notably, by
2036, the traditionally heavily white state of Utah should no longer be part of this group, as racial minorities will comprise 25 percent of its EV population due to the
projected dispersion of Hispanics and other racial groups throughout the state.
Looking more closely at the demographic projections of selected Southern and Western swing states, it is clear that the Hispanic presence in particular should
become quite a bit stronger in several of these states, including Nevada and Florida, where Hispanics are projected to become more than one-quarter of the
eligible electorate in 2036. Due to additional substantial gains by Asians and other races, Nevada’s white share of EVs should plummet from 58 percent in 2020
to just 45 percent in 2036. North Carolina and Virginia should maintain their sizable black electorates and also show significantly increased shares of other voters
of color. This is also the case for Georgia—a swing state in waiting—whose 2036 eligible electorate will be more than one-third black and 15 percent Hispanic,
Asian, and other nonwhite groups. And two other potential swing states, Texas and Arizona, display sharp drops in their white EV profiles, with substantial gains
among Hispanics and other nonwhite races.
and those of other races
3. If support levels shift significantly among whites with and/or without a college education
4. If there are trade-offs between different voting blocs with gains among one group resulting in losses in another
The results of each simulation are discussed in detail
below, but the top-line results for 2020 are displayed in
Figure 2. These 2020 results may be summarized as
• 2012 baseline: Democrats would win the popular vote
by 6 points, and the electoral vote would go to the
Democrats 332-206—same as the actual 2012 election.
• 2016 baseline: Democrats would win the popular vote
by 3 points, and they would take back Michigan,
Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to carry the Electoral College
• 2016 baseline, coming home: Democrats would take
the popular vote by a little under 3 points, but there would be
a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College.
Communities of color
• Equal turnout by race: Democrats would carry the
popular vote by 4.5 points and the Electoral College by 288-
• Black turnout or support like 2012: If black turnout or
support or both are like that of the 2012 election, Democrats
would win the popular vote by 4 to 5 points and the Electoral
College with 294 to 338 electoral votes.
• Hispanics, Asians, and other races swing to GOP:
Democrats would narrowly win the popular vote by .8 points,
but the GOP would win the Electoral College easily by 315-
• Hispanic, Asians, and other races swing to
Democrats: Democrats would carry the popular vote by 6
points and the Electoral College by 319-219, including
Whites by education
• White noncollege-educated voters swing to GOP:
Republicans would carry the popular vote by 1 point and win
the Electoral College easily by 329-209, flipping states such
as Nevada and Minnesota.
• White noncollege-educated voters swing to
Democrats: Democrats would win the popular vote by more
than 7 points and dominate the Electoral College by 350-
188, including flipping Arizona and Georgia
The wide range of scenarios considered here mostly have Democrats in 2020
maintaining and, in many cases, strengthening their popular vote victory from 2016.
Indeed, in only two cases do the authors actually see a Republican popular vote victory in
2020: a 10-point pro-GOP margin swing white noncollege-educated voters and a 10-point
pro-GOP margin swing among white college graduates—and, in the latter case, only if the
third-party vote is reallocated.
Since Democrats registered popular vote advantages in almost all scenarios in 2020, it
should be no surprise that they do so for later elections as well. In the projections that
show a Democrat popular vote advantage in 2020, Democrats achieve even greater
margins in each subsequent election as the projected demographic makeup of the
eligible electorate continues to shift in a direction generally favorable to Democrats.
But, critically, it is electoral votes based on state outcomes, not the nationwide popular
vote, that determine the winner in presidential elections. As this discussion details, many
Democratic popular vote victories in these simulations do not translate into Democratic
electoral vote victories.
In the 2020 election, these simulations include a scenario where Republicans gain a 15-
point margin swing in their favor among Latinos, Asians, and those of other races, and a
number of scenarios where the education gap among whites plays a key role. The
following scenarios result in a GOP Electoral College victory but a popular vote loss: The
GOP gets a 5-point margin swing from white noncollege-educated voters twinned with an
equal swing toward the Democrats among white college-educated voters; a 10-point
swing in Republicans’ favor among white college graduates; and a reversion to 2012
support margins among white college-educated voters. The exception to this pattern is the
scenario in which Republicans gain a 10-point margin swing from white noncollege-
educated voters, where the GOP carries both the Electoral College and the popular vote.
Finally, simply leaving turnout and voter preferences as they were in 2016 while
demographic change continues, yields a probable Republican Electoral College victory—
though popular vote loss—if the third-party vote reverts to 2012 levels.
Thus, the GOP has many roads to the presidency in 2020 even though demographic shifts
appear to make a Democratic popular vote victory easier than ever to obtain. Even more
interesting, some of these fruitful scenarios continue to produce Republican electoral vote
triumphs in 2024 and beyond, despite mounting popular vote losses. Their strongest
future prospects are linked to a widening education gap among whites in their favor.
Conversely, the brightest prospects for the Democrats are linked to an education gap
among whites that widens in their favor, though they would also benefit greatly from
stronger turnout and/or support among voters of color.
Detailed discussion of all scenarios is provided below.
The 2012 presidential election was a good year for Democrats. President Obama won the national popular vote by about 4 points and handily carried the Electoral
College at 332-206. Notably, it marked a high point for black turnout, which surpassed that of whites for the first time in the modern political era.
Using this election as a baseline—that is, replicating the turnout and vote preference patterns of 2012 by demographic group but using the 2020 distributions of
these demographic groups—the authors find that in 2020, a Democratic candidate would replicate the 332-206 Obama electoral vote victory of 2012. Here the
exact same distribution of states is seen between Democrats and Republicans as in 2012, but with larger margins for the Democrats in the states they carry—
reflecting the changing populations in these states. Nationally, Democrats would increase their popular vote margin3 by about 2 points compared with their
margin in 2012—going from a 3.9-point to a 5.8-point win.
Looking further into the future, this simulation shows a 345-
193 Electoral College win from Democrats in 2024 as North
Carolina goes blue and a 361-177 win in 2032 and 2036 as
Georgia flips. Although no other states flip into the
Democratic column in this time frame, we see several
Republican states’ margins shift into “swing” territory—a
margin of less than 7.5 points: Arizona by 4 points,
Mississippi by 5.1 points, Missouri by 5.8 points, Indiana by 7
points, and Texas by 7 points.
The 2016 presidential election had a number of interesting
features compared with 2012. First and foremost, there was
a significant divergence between the popular vote and the
Electoral College. While Hillary Clinton won the national
popular vote by 2.1 points—about 2.8 million votes—Donald
Trump won the Electoral College 304-227, or 306-232
without faithless electors. This was driven in large part by an
increase in the white education divide. Although in recent
history, whites without a college degree have voted
Republican more than whites with a degree, those
differences were notably larger in 2016. In addition, the
turnout and support rates of blacks for Democrats in 2016
were lower and similar to those reported in 2004—the last
presidential election without a black candidate.
Using this election as a baseline, the authors find that a
Democratic candidate would eke out a win of 279-259 in the
Electoral College by flipping Michigan, Pennsylvania, and
Wisconsin—states President Trump narrowly won in 2016.
Nationally, Democrats would increase their popular vote
margin by about 1 point compared with 2016—going from a
2.1-point win to 3.2-point win.
In this scenario, the authors would expect a Democratic win of 288-250 in 2020 as Florida, Wisconsin, and Michigan flip. Nationally, the authors would expect a
Democratic candidate to increase their popular vote margin by 1.3 points compared with the 2020 result under the 2016 baseline, going from a 3.2-point win to
Unsurprisingly, this Democratic advantage expands the further out the baseline goes. A Democratic candidate could be expected to add Pennsylvania and
Arizona to their win column by 2024; Georgia and North Carolina in 2032; and Texas by 2036.
2012 black turnout and support
Two of the biggest changes of political behavior in 2016 were among blacks. First, there was a significant decline in black turnout, dropping close to 4.5 points
nationally from the historic highs observed in 2012. Despite growing slightly as a share of EVs, the share of voters who were black dropped by more than 1
In addition, blacks also voted less Democratic and more Republican than usual during the last presidential election. While Democrats enjoyed an 88-point
advantage over Republicans in 2016 among black voters, the Democrats’ advantage dropped to 80 points in 2016.
What would happen if black turnout, support, or both returned to their 2012 levels? In all three scenarios, the Democratic candidate would win the Electoral
College in 2020—by 294-244, 308-230, and 338-200, respectively—and the national popular vote by 4.1, 4.2, and 5 points, respectively.
In each of the above scenarios, the Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin swing back into the Democratic column. In addition, increased
black turnout flips North Carolina, increased support flips Florida, and increased turnout and support would flip North Carolina, Florida, and—narrowly—
Like other simulations, these Democratic win margins expand further into the future. Assuming higher 2012 levels of turnout among blacks, Florida and
Georgia flip by 2024, resulting in a 338-200 Democratic win, with Arizona falling into the Democratic column by 2032 for a 350-188 electoral vote advantage. By
2036, Republicans would hold Texas by just 2.2 points.
If black support margins returned to 2012 levels, the authors anticipate North Carolina and Georgia would flip into the Democratic column by 2024, resulting in
a 338-200 Electoral College win. This lead expands to 350-188 in 2028 as these states are joined by Arizona. By 2036, Republicans would hold Texas by just
The same basic pattern is seen if black support and turnout return to their 2012 levels with the sole difference being that North Carolina and Georgia are added
not in 2024 but rather in 2020. Under this scenario, Republicans would hold Texas by just 0.4 points in 2036.
Support swings among Hispanics, Asians, and other races
Between now and 2036, the authors anticipate that growth among Hispanics, Asians, and those belonging to other racial groups will drive the diversification of
the EV population. Although a number of factors will delay their electoral impact—namely, an age structure that skews younger and an electorally
disadvantageous geographic distribution—it is commonly held that both parties will need to garner significant shares of these voters in order to remain viable
at a national level.
What would happen over the next 18 years if the Republican Party made significant inroads with these voters? Alternatively, what if the Trump administration’s
racially charged policies and rhetoric drive them even further away and create a long-term distrust of the GOP brand?
In the first simulation, Hispanics, Asians, and those belonging to other racial groups swing 7.5 points toward the GOP candidate relative to 2016 levels of
support and 7.5 points away from the Democratic candidate—an overall 15-point margin swing. In 2020, this would create a narrow popular vote victory for the
Democratic candidate—0.8 points—but a robust 315-223 Republican victory in the Electoral College. Despite demographic changes that generally favor
Democrats, the GOP would retain the Rust Belt states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, as well as narrowly adding New Hampshire and Nevada to
their column. In addition, the GOP win margin would expand to a safer 4 points in Florida and a hearty 12 points in Texas.
Intriguingly, even as their popular vote losses mount in future elections, Republicans still hold the Electoral College by a 283-255 margin through 2028. By that
time, they have lost Michigan and Pennsylvania, but still hold states such as Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. However, in
2032, they fall behind the Democrats by losing the latter three states as well as Georgia in 2036 for a final Electoral College deficit of 235-303.
In their second simulation, the authors look at the reverse scenario: the 15-point margin swing among Hispanics, Asians, and those belonging to other racial
groups is toward the Democratic Party. In 2020, this produces a significant 6-point popular vote win as well as an Electoral College win of 319-219 for the
Democratic candidate—flipping Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, and Arizona. In addition, North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas become narrow
Republican wins of 1, 2, and 3 points, respectively, while Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia go Democratic by more than 8 points each.
As with prior scenarios, the electoral map grows more Democratic going out several elections. North Carolina flips by 2024, Georgia and Texas by 2028—
producing a 391-147 electoral vote advantage—and by 2036 the Democratic candidate is winning the national popular vote by more than 10 points.
Whites by education¬
As recently as 1980, whites without college degrees comprised about 70 percent of all EVs—dominating politics nationally and in most states. Rising
educational attainment rates and the racial diversification of the electorate have created downward pressure on this group, which constituted just about 46
percent of EVs in 2016; according to the authors’ projections, it should drop another 9.5 points as a percent of EVs by 2036.
This change is important because of sharp divides in the behavior of whites based on their educational status. In particular, whites without a college degree
are notably more likely to vote Republican than other racial groups—a divide that grew in 2016. (see Figure 7) The following section explores what changes
among whites with and without a college degree might mean in future elections.
Support swings among white noncollege-educated voters
Despite their demographic decline, whites without a college degree still make up a substantial portion of the voting population. Historically, the national exit
polls have been a common data source for understanding the composition of voters, but within the last 10 years it has become increasingly clear that these
surveys are underestimating the size of the white noncollege-educated population. The authors’ synthetic data analysis indicates that this group made up
about 44 percent of those who showed up at the polls in 2016, compared with 34 percent in the national exit polls.
This finding underscores a great truth: Whites without a college degree are still a massive demographic group and even small shifts in their voting behavior
can have dramatic effects on American politics.
In the first scenario, the authors simulate the effect of white noncollege-educated voters swinging a further 5 points toward the Republican Party and 5 points
away from the Democrats—a 10-point margin shift overall. For the first time, the Republicans score a popular vote victory in 2020 combined with a robust
Electoral College win of 329-209. Besides widening their support considerably in the Rust Belt three of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, the GOP would
add four states to their column: Nevada, Minnesota, Maine, and New Hampshire. Moreover, the Democratic candidate would win Colorado by less than 2
points, as well as Oregon and New Mexico by less than 7 points.
Fascinatingly, in every election thereafter through 2036, Republicans lose the popular vote—and by ever-widening margins—but still win the Electoral College.
Nevada flips back into the Democratic column by 2024, but from there on out there is no change in the states until 2036, when the GOP loses Minnesota and
Pennsylvania. Even with these losses, the Republican candidate would still win the Electoral College 296-242 in that election.S