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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin: Understanding Some Key Demographic Differences

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Dan Balz’ lengthy article in the Sunday Post is a useful summary of the 2020 electoral map. He identifies four states as being key to the upcoming contest: Florida and, quite properly, the Rustbelt trio of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Let me focus here on that trio of states and run down some of the key demographic differences between them which are perhaps harder to see than their obvious similarities.

Start with the white noncollege population. It is high in all three but in Wisconsin it is highest. States of Change data predict this demographic will make up 59 percent of Wisconsin eligible voters in 2020. Michigan will have 56 percent white noncollege eligibles in 2020 and Pennsylvania 54 percent.

In 2016, States of Change analysis indicates that Pennsylvania had the largest white noncollege deficit for the Democrats, 29 points. The white noncollege Democratic deficit was 21 points in Michigan and just (!) 19 points in Wisconsin.

In terms of white college eligibles, they will be highest in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania (26 percent) and lowest in Michigan (22 percent). In all three states the share of white college voters will likely be significantly higher than these figures because of this group’s high turnout.

In 2016, we find interestingly, that Wisconsin had the largest white college advantage for the Democrats–15 points. Pennsylvania had a 9 point white college Democratic advantage and Michigan actually had a slight deficit of 2 points.

Turning to nonwhites, Wisconsin should have the lowest share of this demographic segment in 2020–just 15 percent of eligibles. Pennsylvania will have 20 percent nonwhite eligibles and Michigan 22 percent.

In Wisconsin, the shares of eligible voters in 2020 should be fairly close to one another between blacks (6 percent), Hispanics (5 percent) and Asian/other race (4 percent). In the other two states, black eligible voters will dominate: 13 percent black eligibles in Michigan to 3 percent Hispanic and 4 percent Asian/other; 10 percent black eligibles in Pennsylvania to 5 percent Hispanic and 4 percent Asian/other.

In 2016, black turnout was down slightly in Michigan and Pennsylvania and strongly in Wisconsin. If black turnout in 2016 had matched 2012 levels in these states, Michigan and Wisconsin probably would have gone Democratic. But Pennsylvania probably wouldn’t have.

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