Karl Pearson used to say that "statistics is the grammar of science." In a world where quintillion bytes of data are processed daily, statistics play an increasingly major role in many aspects of our life. In politics, they offer insights on such important events as the presidential race. In the US, shortly after the officials announced the preliminary election results, it became clear that it would be enough for Joe Biden to win in Pennsylvania to gain 270 electoral votes, the minimum required to win the presidency. As we all know now, the traditional support of the Democratic Party in Philadelphia and adjacent areas have secured the eventual results.
So today let’s look at the reasons why ex-president Trump has lost the battle of Pennsylvania. Why Pennsylvania though? The Keystone State is the closest state to the US average in terms of education and income, the important metrics when analyzing the voting process:
The median income
- In Pennsylvania, the median household income is average. Median across all states is $59.116 while it is $59.445 in Pennsylvania.
A bachelor's degree
- The state averages on people with four-year college degrees. The median is 31% - the same figure for Pennsylvania.
Let’s take a closer look at numbers. Here’s the voting history for the presidential race in Pennsylvania.
There is how Pennsylvanians voted in 2020:
Votes on the map graph
According to the state officials, about 71% of the state's population turned up to vote, a new record-setting outcome. Most likely, this high mark means the following:
1. Pennsylvanians en masse are unsatisfied with the incumbent office and want to speed up changes by voting.
2. Biden managed to reveal Trump's failures as a president and agitate both his supporters and non-defined voters to proactively participate in the elections.
3.Trump encouraged his supporters to participate in elections as well.
Let’s do the maths, shall we? The stats reveal that big counties tend to vote for Biden, in comparison with small and rural counties that mainly support Trump.
So there’s the dependency between what party the county aligns to and its demographics. For instance, counties below 140k in residents tend to vote for Trump. At the same time, counties with 140-300k in population vote for both Dems or Reps depending on local preferences in a particular county. It’s worth saying that Westmoreland, Berks, York, and Lancaster are unique so they should be reviewed separately depending on population diversity and their primary economic involvement. Finally, the counties with more than 300,000 citizens vote for Democrats only.
So, let’s check the population structure for blue counties. As it comes from the research of Pew Research Center, the same ethnical groups tend to support the same party throughout the years which results in a nearly constant percentage of registered voters. If we look at the composition of the population, we can see that blue counties have different ethnic proportion. The aforementioned counties have a higher part of people of color than other counties:
Most of these ethnic groups (especially Hispanic and Asian Americans) ardently support Democrats, and this trend has become even more evident during the last couple of years. At the same time, in Pennsylvania, white Americans generally prefer to vote for Republicans. Let’s check the percentage of voters for Republicans and Democrats correspondingly in 2020 and 1992 per main ethnicity groups:
In Pennsylvania, blue counties keep on growing and their part among all votes has increased from 55.3% in 2016 to 55.5% in 2020. In addition, the part of non-white voters has increased in these counties from 50.75% in 2016 to 54.83% in 2020. Joe Biden managed to obtain a high percentage from these counties.
Let's see what factors influenced the opinion of the undecided or could change their minds over the course of the election company. First, let’s observe how candidates ratings have been changing during the race:
- April 9th - Trump and Biden became presumptive nominees for their parties. Biden gets acknowledged as a nominee and his rating starts to grow both in the whole USA and Pennsylvania.
- May 25th - the death of George Floyd. Biden advocates that the current government is not capable of solving the problem with racism in state institutions. Trump’s rating gets down.
- May 29th - the death toll in the U.S. surpasses 100,000. The COVID-19 draws the border between candidates. Both candidates suggested very different approaches towards dealing with the problem. Biden proposed to go into a quick but complete lockdown while sending payments to closed businesses. Trump’s approach is partial lockdown and earlier opening of businesses. Biden’s rating goes up while Trump’s popularity decreases.
- June 24th - Dr. Anthony Fauci’s report on the coronavirus crisis claims that the US is “in a bad position”. The lowest point of Trump’s rating following the announcement that the US anti-COVID approach fails.
- October 2nd - Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19. The candidate had to stop public events, and that had a direct impact on the rest of his campaign. Trumps’ rating gets appr. -1.8 point down. After recovery, he started to gain the popularity of swing states due to the rally of events in those states and an effective media campaign.
We can conclude that the result of past elections in Pennsylvania often depended on two main patterns being commonplace in the large counties.
Demographics. The population in the largest counties vote for the Democrats on a permanent basis. Besides, more people of color vote for democrats, and this percentage of such voters (and their overall quantity) is growing. Thus, this trend is in favor of the Democrats, and it continues to grow.
The election race. Second, voters watch closely the election race, and how candidates react to the most significant challenges. The ex-president’s mistakes in his fight against the pandemic did not lower his rating that much - he still got support. This way, the voting preferences depend on more basic factors such as level of education, welfare, and sphere of activity. Thus, Trump’s supporters are more likely to vote for his ideas and personal qualities.
In his turn, Biden could attract those who did not go to the polls earlier or hesitated in their choice. He managed to wisely distance himself from Trump during the events of summer 2020, namely the BLM-driven protests and the pandemic crisis. However, Trump was somehow able to maintain the support of his voters.
One way or another, Biden is far less controversial than Trump. He is acceptable as the president to significantly more voters than Trump or the previous Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
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