Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released “The Path to 270 in 2020,” a quadrennial research project that examines the most important demographic and geographic trends shaping next year’s presidential race at both the national level and in the battleground states.

The report is co-authored by Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, CAP senior fellows and co-directors of the Politics and Elections program, and the results are based on the authors’ analysis of the comprehensive States of Change electoral data.

Some of the key findings include:

  • The nonwhite share of the eligible electorate will increase by 2 percentage points, almost entirely from increases in the shares of Hispanics, Asians, and voters of other races.
  • The above will be balanced by a commensurate decrease in the share of white noncollege eligible voters, while the share of white college-educated eligible voters will slightly increase.
  • Based on these patterns and past vote history, the Democratic candidate in 2020 has a very good chance of carrying the popular vote again. Indeed, under a scenario where nothing changes between 2016 and 2020 except the relative sizes of the demographic groups making up the eligible electorate, the Democratic candidate would win the popular vote by a larger margin: 3.2 percentage points. This result holds constant the turnout levels and voter preferences of demographic groups between the 2016 and 2020 elections.
  • Under a scenario where turnout and voter preferences by demographic group remain the same as in 2016, and only the underlying demographic structure of the eligible electorate changes in 2020, the Democratic candidate would take back Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to carry the Electoral College by 279 votes to 259 votes.
  • For President Donald Trump to win the popular vote, he needs to dramatically increase his support among his strongest demographic: white noncollege voters.
  • If the president increased his support across states among these voters by 10 margin points, he would in fact carry the popular vote, albeit by just 1 percentage point.
  • If Trump increased his margin among Hispanics, Asians, and voters of other races by 15 points or among white college graduates by 10 points, he would still narrowly lose the popular vote (0.8 points and 0.2 points, respectively).
  • Under a scenario where Trump would carry the popular vote with a swing of white noncollege-educated voters in his direction by 10 margin points, he would also win a strong 2020 majority in the Electoral College, by 329-209, adding Nevada, Maine, Minnesota, and New Hampshire to the states he carried in 2016.

“Given the demographic shifts expected in the electorate, the 2020 election is currently up for grabs. Although President Trump faces widespread disapproval and diminishing demographic advantages nationally, his strong support and potential to expand this support among white noncollege-educated voters in several key battleground states gives him a path to 270 electoral votes,” explained Teixeira, the report’s lead author.

Report co-author Halpin added, “While the Democrats benefit from projected shifts in underlying demographics, the party’s eventual nominee must be able to both mobilize base voters and cut Trump’s margins with college-educated voters who disapprove of Trump—and among noncollege educated white women in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin in particular—if they hope to succeed in both the popular and electoral votes.”

Some of the questions explored in the report include:

  • Do national trends tell us much about this particular election, or will the outcome more likely be determined in a handful of states and regions within these states? If the latter, which states will matter the most in tipping the election, and what do both parties need to do to maximize their chances in those states?
  • If President Trump merely replicates his voting coalition from 2016, can he realistically expect to win, or are there other demographic and partisan trends that suggest a need to do more than what was done in 2016?
  • Can Democrats successfully mobilize their base voters and reach less partisan-aligned voters who may be unsure of both Trump and the eventual Democratic nominee? Do the Democrats have the agenda and message to do both?
  • Are there realistic avenues for both demographic and geographic growth for either Trump or Democrats? If so, which voters and states are likely targets for each?
  • How will larger-issue debates and fundamentals such as the state of the economy or international events potentially affect the election? What steps should Republicans and Democrats take to shape these debates on favorable terms?

For more information or to speak with the authors, please contact Claudia Montecinos at [email protected] or 202-481-8145.

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