Washington, D.C.– A detailed analysis of voting patterns and demographic changes in the electorate finds that if trends from the past two presidential elections continue, the 2020 contest starts off as a dead heat. That finding is part of a new report to be released tomorrow at the Bipartisan Policy Center by a consortium of think tanks.
The 2018 States of Change report analyzes a range of future presidential election outcome scenarios based on changing levels of support among various demographic groups for the major political parties as the nation grows more diverse over the next two decades. While demographics are not destiny, the general trend of demography presents potential electoral challenges for Republicans, the study finds, as Democratic-leaning groups grow as a share of the electorate and Republican-leaning groups shrink.
For Democrats in future elections, replicating the level of support and turnout among black and Latino voters will be key to popular vote and Electoral College victories. Under almost any turnout and support scenario examined in the report, Democrats are in the presidential driver’s seat by 2036, with states such as Arizona, Georgia, and Texas joining the battleground map in that timeframe.
For Republicans, meanwhile, the long-term path to victory may lie in expanding the Trump coalition of non-college educated white voters. Increasing Trump’s 2016 gains among this group could put Nevada, Minnesota, Maine, and New Hampshire in the Republican column in 2020 and make Colorado, Oregon, and New Mexico battleground states. Under this scenario, the report finds that Republicans could net Electoral College victories through 2036, even while losing the popular vote by ever-larger margins.
The report’s scenarios should not be taken as projections or predictions but rather simulations based on assumptions about different demographic groups’ future voting patterns. As such, these scenarios provide a more in-depth understanding that 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 presidential election outcomes.
States of Change is a joint project of the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Brookings Institution, the Center for American Progress, and the Public Religion Research Institute. The scenarios examined in the report were constructed by breaking down the U.S. population into 32 demographic groups, based on information from the American Community Survey, and analyzing county-level estimates of turnout, party support, and voter population composition.