Elections

The 5 voter groups that will decide the 2020 election

Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, McClatchy is undertaking a deep examination of five voter groups that will be critical to the Democrats’ coalition as they seek to defeat Donald Trump.

Over the course of the next year, McClatchy political reporters will profile who these voters are, why they matter, and what both parties are doing to win them over. The groups were identified based on interviews with Democratic and Republican officials, strategists and pollsters, as well as an analysis of voting data.

These voting blocs will shape the outcomes in midwestern states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that Democrats are hoping to bring back into their column, perennial swing states Florida, Nevada and North Carolina, and emerging battlegrounds, including Arizona, Georgia and Texas.

In an election, every vote counts. But voters in the groups detailed below will play an outsized role in determining which party wins control of the White House.

RURAL VOTERS

Trump performed far better in rural America in 2016 than he did in either suburban or urban areas. But Democrats rebounded in this region during the 2018 midterm elections, and party leaders hope they can continue to make inroads ahead of 2020.

The Trump campaign is optimistic the president can increase his margins even further in a region where he’s still popular -- but he will have to convince many farmers that his trade policies haven’t been as harmful as some critics allege.

ROMNEY REPUBLICANS

Since Trump’s election, Democrats’ electoral gains have been concentrated in the suburbs. Those voters, who have long voted for GOP presidential candidates, have recoiled at Trump’s behavior and language in office.

The question for Democrats is whether these voters, many of whom remain fiscally conservative, will be wary of a party moving to the left on issues such as health care and taxes.

WHITE WORKING-CLASS WOMEN

No group attracts more attention from pollsters of both parties than white working-class women. Some will go as far to say, in fact, that it’s a group of voters who could single-handedly swing the election’s outcome.

The group -- which exit polls showed made up nearly 20 percent of the electorate in 2016 -- went heavily for Trump in the last election. But the president’s failed health care legislation has given many of them pause, questioning whether the GOP is too focused on the wealthy.

Republicans have some reason for concern: No major group had a bigger swing in support from the GOP to the Democrats between the 2016 and 2018 elections.

OCCASIONAL VOTERS

Hillary Clinton failed to inspire enough African-American and Hispanic voters to cast ballots in 2016. Democrats want to avoid the same mistake in 2020 and are reaching out early and often to communities that say they’re ignored by both parties until just weeks before an election.

When these voters turn out, they tend to vote Democratic -- though Trump and the GOP are already vowing to win over many voters of color by the time November comes around.

SOCIAL MEDIA VOTERS

More voters than ever before receive news and information online, and often from sources far different than traditional media organizations. Social media is the wild west for politics, and both parties are scrambling to figure out how to adapt -- and maximize their chance to influence voters.

More than any other group, these voters are wild cards for the general election. Neither side knows which way they’ll lean.

Alex Roarty has written about the Democratic Party since joining McClatchy in 2017. He’s been a campaigns reporter in Washington since 2010, after covering politics and state government in Pennsylvania during former Gov. Ed Rendell’s second term.
Adam Wollner is a political editor for McClatchy’s Washington, D.C. bureau, where he covers the 2020 presidential campaign. Previously, he covered elections and Capitol Hill for National Journal. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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