“The extreme polarization between Democrats and Republicans is unprecedented”

In Bombay (India), October 29, 2020.

A few days before the American presidential election, on November 3, Renan-Abhinav Moog, expert at the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, analyzed, in a chat with Internet users of the World, the electoral dynamics at work in the pivotal States. For him, one of the keys to the ballot lies in the way “The base of the Republican electorate perceives the management of the crisis” health and economic related to the coronavirus by Donald Trump.

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NotMAGAdutout: Hello, can Donald Trump repeat the surprise of 2016? Has he succeeded in expanding his electoral base?

Renan-Abhinav Moog: It was the stated ambition of Trump and his team: to repeat the feat of 2016 and expand his conquests, with four targets announced, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada and Virginia. At the moment, Biden is a favorite in those four states, and for the first time in twenty years, neither Nevada, Virginia, nor New Hampshire are considered pivotal states.

Only Minnesota is potentially winnable by Trump, if we look only at current polls. And if we assume that Trump can accentuate the phenomenon that led to his victory in 2016 (strong increase in participation in rural areas), then New Hampshire can also be a surprise on November 3.

CD: To your knowledge, does the extreme polarization of the two camps that we see today have a precedent in contemporary American political history?

The Democratic fiefdoms are indeed more and more Democratic (4.3 million votes ahead for Clinton in California alone in 2016), the Republican fiefdoms more and more Republican. The Senate map is also a perfect illustration of this polarization: there are only 8 states out of 50 having a senator from each camp.

This is unprecedented: until 1996, a number of states were still very open in terms of elections, but this number has fallen considerably. And even within states that become competitive due to demographic changes, we can observe this very strong polarization between large cities and rural areas, between minorities and whites.

Julius Puech: Is there still a working class in the United States? If so, can we characterize our vote in favor of this or that candidate?

Yes, there is still a working class. It is an electorate that has voted little for years, especially in the Rust Belt (“rust belt”). This is the key to Donald Trump’s success in 2016: he managed to increase the scores obtained by Mitt Romney in 2012 in rural counties or small and medium-sized towns in these states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina North, Iowa, etc.). At the same time, Hillary Clinton had obtained lower scores than Barack Obama in very large cities.

For 2020, before the health crisis, the electorate of the working class (often called “White working class” across the Atlantic) had every reason to renew his vote in favor of Trump.

Marc: Will the management of the health and economic crisis linked to the coronavirus work against Trump?

This is undoubtedly one of the key questions of this poll: how does the base of the Republican electorate (that is to say a white, rural, middle-class “typical voter”) perceive the management of the crisis by Donald Trump? Opinion polls on this issue are not sufficiently precise.

But beyond its partisan electorate, we must not neglect the independents, around 30% of the total electorate. This is where Trump has the most to lose, and this is also why Biden campaigned extensively on this theme.

Read our survey: American election: the conquest of “suburbia”

Five-Thirty-Eight: We see that several traditionally Republican states are no longer impregnable strongholds for Democrats. Is there a demographic reason behind it?

In 2008, Obama overturned Virginia, which was the least democratic of the southern states. Why ? Due to the rapid and massive growth of the Washington DC suburbs (especially Fairfax County), with the arrival of a very large Latino community, which votes largely for the Democrats.

This phenomenon is beginning to change the electoral profile of other states of the Sun Belt (“sun belt”): Arizona, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina. In fact, in all these states, we can see the development of Latino and Asian minorities, which are added to the sometimes significant Afro-American minorities, especially in the South.

In Abilene, Texas, October 28, 2020.

Augustine: Why is Georgia becoming winnable by Democrats when neighbors like Alabama or Kentucky are solidly Republicans?

Georgia has long been a democratic stronghold. Yet, like the entire South, she has not voted for a Democratic candidate since 1992 (while two other southern states, Louisiana and Arkansas, voted Democratic until 1996). The state has a large African-American minority: more than 31% of its population, which ranks it thirde rank, behind Mississippi and Louisiana.

Two phenomena should be noted: on the one hand, the increasingly strong mobilization of African-Americans (in particular for the election of the governor in 2018 to support Stacey Abrams, Democratic candidate and herself African-American), but also the emergence of two new minorities, who vote strongly for Democrats (and who are concentrated in Atlanta and its suburbs): Latinos and Asians.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton improved the score of Barack Obama in 2008 (already very good) because the combined weight, within the electorate of Georgia, of African-Americans, Latinos and Asians rose from around 30% to 40%.

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Stéph: What weight does the youth vote represent for this election?

It is one of the key electorates for Joe Biden. Unfortunately for him, the young people favorable to the Democrats often preferred Bernie Sanders to him during the primaries. She must therefore avoid at all costs what cost Hillary Clinton the victory: a strong abstention of young people in the big cities.

In 2016, young people aged 18 to 24 represented only 10% of the electorate, and they voted overwhelmingly for Clinton (56% against 34% for Trump). The 25-29 age group represented only 9% of the electorate and voted almost identically (54% against 39%). These figures should be put into perspective with the weight of seniors: 46% of the electorate in 2016 was over 50 years old. And that electorate voted 52% for Trump.

Biden must therefore both succeed in mobilizing young people while shifting part of the senior electorate into his camp. This will be particularly decisive in Florida, where seniors (65 and over) represent 20.5% of the population.

TT: How is it that the Latino electorate, mostly Catholic, votes for the more progressive Democrats than for the Republican conservatives?

In the United States, Catholics are a minority among others. As a result, the Catholic electorate has always favored Democrats more than Republicans. In some states in the 1960s, for example, a number of Democrats were hostile to John Fitzgerald Kennedy in the primaries because he was Catholic.

Concerning the Latinos, their vote is above all a response to the very strong hostility shown to them by a large part of the Republicans. Many Latinos have family in countries that, like Mexico, are singled out by Trump as the source of America’s problems. In California, for example, it is not uncommon to see families living on both sides of the border. Republicans’ migration policy is therefore a major obstacle to a vote in favor of the GOP.

Maurice: How is it explained that part of the African-American electorate, in particular evangelicals, still votes for Trump?

In each poll, between 5% and 10% of African Americans vote for Republicans. It just shows that belonging to a community is not fully correlated with voting and therefore there are strong Republican supporters, including African Americans, who wouldn’t change their vote for the world.

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Orion: Is there a questioning of the indirect nature of the presidential election, while the composition of the college of the electorate tends to diverge more and more with the so-called “popular” vote?

In 2016, there was a much stronger wave of questioning of the electoral college than in 2000. In 2000, the Internet and social networks, still in their infancy, did not allow the organization of massive communication campaigns. In addition, the situation of 2000 was much more complex, with the recount in Florida which took weeks and, especially, the attacks of September 11, 2001, which completely obscured the question of the “stolen” victory of Gore. However, Americans are extremely committed to the Constitution, so it is very unlikely that there will be a massive demand for a change in the electoral mode.

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