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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Who Restored the Blue Wall?

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

I would say that most of the commentary around what drove Biden’s retaking of the Rustbelt three–Michigan, Wisconsin and now apparently Pennsylvania–has been focused more around white college voters than their more numerous noncollege counterparts. This is usually illustrated by reference to some suburban counties who swung big toward Biden (conveniently forgetting that many of these counties have large numbers of white noncollege voters, not just white college voters).

This fits a long-standing narrative about this election but is it right? I don’t think so though I, like anyone else, have to rely on very imperfect data at this point for assessing this claim. Right now, I am using the AP/NORC Votecast data and comparing it to States of Change data from 2016. This is not ideal but better than using the exit polls, which have some truly unbelievable estimates of voter composition at this point and will be probably be reweighted to a fare-thee-well in the near future. Eventually, States of Change will have 2020 estimates to use in such a comparison but that won’t be for quite awhile. I am hopeful Catalist, whose data are very solid, will release their estimates (with comparisons to 2016) much sooner and we can sift through those. But for now, we got what we got.

Start with national margin shift figures:

White noncollege +7
White college 0
Fwiw, which is not much, exit poll comparisons are consistent with this pattern.
White college +2
White noncollege +7
White college +2
White noncollege +7
White college +9
White noncollege +4

So there are significant white noncollege shifts nationally in all three of these states and only in Michigan is the white college shift actually larger than the white noncollege shift. And keep in mind that–especially in these three states–the proportion of white noncollege voters is much higher than the proportion of white college voters.

More and better data are needed to settle this question but at the least it appears to call into question the standard media narrative. While Biden didn’t carry the white working class vote–nobody in their right mind thought he would–he did accomplish his objective, significantly cutting into Trump’s margins with these voters and carrying these states.

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