IMPORTANT POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE
– Joe Biden overtook Hillary Clinton in 73 of 75 major suburban boroughs, an indicator of the strength of the suburbs that led him to the White House.
– In Georgia, Colorado, and Minnesota, Biden’s performance in the major suburbs served as the foundation for his statewide performance, as he used major improvements in those counties to improve his statewide lead and lead himself to victory.
The relationship between education and electoral tendencies is growing, and there is a strong correlation between the improvement in Biden’s vote share and the county’s four-year rate.
Biden’s suburban swings
When Donald Trump became the first incumbent since 1932 to have a serious major opponent to lose re-election, Mitch McConnell remarked, “We need to win back the suburbs.” Early analysis confirms McConnell’s theory; In 75 large metropolitan counties with over 105,000 presidential votes cast, Biden overtook Hillary Clinton in 73 of them and Barack Obama in 66 of them.
The demographics, geography, and local politics of these areas can vary widely, but whether in a strong Republican area like Waukesha County, Wisconsin, or a Democratic stronghold like Ramsey County, Minnesota (which contains the city of St. Paul and can really be classified ) One thing was consistent across the city as well as the suburbs: In the suburbs, Biden significantly improved Clinton’s margins for 2016, and those gains paved his way to the White House. In this article, we’ll examine Biden’s suburban performance in three key 2020 states that provide a microcosm of the overall trends observed: Georgia, Minnesota, and Colorado. Georgia moved from Trump in 2016 to Biden 2020, while Biden promoted the Clinton states of Minnesota and Colorado with significantly larger profit margins than Clinton four years ago.
Some of the above counties have doomed Trump, but perhaps none is as devastating as the one in the metropolitan and suburbs of Atlanta. Politically, Georgia as a state is very different from what it was four years ago, and nothing illustrates this better than its elasticity of the state, which shows us the variation in votes of an area over a period of time.
As shown below, the vast majority of the state is extraordinarily inelastic, with the margins barely shifting between Clinton’s 2016 loss, Stacey Abrams (D) loss in 2018, and Biden’s win in 2020. However, there are large numbers of resilient voters located in the greater Atlanta area, which dominates the state’s population and makes up an oversized proportion of Georgian voters. Joe Biden captured an overwhelming share of swing voters in these resilient areas, improved Clinton and Abrams margins in suburban and suburban areas like Cobb, Gwinnett, Douglas, and Forsyth, and prepared for victory.
Maps 1: Georgia Elasticity, 2016-2020
Card 2: Georgia Presidential Swing, 2016-2020
A sparkling example of the Georgia suburban left swing can be found in Counties Gwinnett and Cobb. In 2012, President Obama received 44.6% of the vote in Gwinnett County. Four years later, Clinton earned 50.2%. And four years later, Biden received 58.4% of the vote, improving Clinton’s vote by about 75,000 votes. In Cobb County, Biden did 13.6% better than Obama in 2012 and received over 60,000 votes more than Clinton. Biden won Georgia by nearly 12,000 votes, but if Trump had shaved just 10% of Biden’s profits in those two counties, he would have won the state. Biden’s victory was based almost entirely on his strength in suburban Atlanta.
The shift in Georgia coincided with the party’s strength at the presidential level among college graduated whites and black voters. While Trump made some gains in the exit poll with black voters (although the reliability of these numbers should be limited, especially in the days after the election), Biden still won 88% of Georgia’s black voters. In addition, he received the support of 57% of college graduates, including 44% of whites, which far exceeds Clinton’s total of 28% in the 2016 Exit polls. Both Cobb (46.5%) and Gwinnett (36.1%) have education rates well above the national average of 33% of adults who have completed four years of study. In addition, every county is at least 29% black based on the 2018 census estimate.
These two factors – high numbers of black voters and high numbers of college graduates – explain why the two boroughs moved further toward the Democratic presidential candidate between 2012 and 2020 than any other suburb in the country. If Trump had slowed the bleeding of votes a little and only received a few percent of the vote in either of these two districts, he would have extended the Republican presidential streak in Georgia to seven elections. As it is, Joe Biden drove his gains at Gwinnett and Cobb to the first Democratic presidential win in Georgia in nearly 30 years.
The theme of suburban victories sparked by gaining college graduates was also perhaps the biggest story behind the Minnesota shift, which saw one of the biggest pro-biden shifts among battlefield states in 2020. Although Obama won the state by 7.7% in 2012, Clinton only won it by 1.5% in 2016, and both campaigns viewed Minnesota as a major battleground in 2020. However, Biden carried it with an impressive 7.1% and received over 350,000 votes more than Clinton, swinging critical areas of the state his way.
Map 3: Minnesota Presidential Swing, 2016-2020
If we look under the hood, we can see that Biden’s performance in Minnesota was shaped by increases in Hennepin, Minneapolis and the four major surrounding suburbs, Anoka, Ramsey, Washington, and Dakota, all of which cast over 170,000 votes per president. In 2020, Biden was at least half a dozen points ahead of Clinton’s lead in all four counties. More specifically, it received 25,000 votes in Anoka, 34,000 in Ramsey, 22,000 in Washington, and 35,000 in Dakota. These counties accounted for more than a third of Biden’s increase in votes over Clinton’s performance. Of those four counties, three chose Biden, and all three (Ramsey, Washington, and Dakota) have undergraduate graduation rates of at least 41.8% among their adult populations.
This trend is even more evident in Colorado, which ranks second after Massachusetts in the percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree. Democrats, who decades ago were a pillar of the “lock” of the Republican electoral college, have now won it in four consecutive elections thanks to their success with suburban voters. Based on the two-party vote, Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor of Crystal Ball, found that Colorado shifted 4.2% versus the Democrats from 2016 to 2020, which is a two-party Democratic vote that is 0.5% higher was than in any other state.
Card 4: Colorado Presidential Swing, 2016-2020
If we look at the voting details, we see that the state’s left swing has been fueled by immense gains in the suburbs. Boulder was the best educated county in the 75 suburbs, with a 62.1% undergraduate rate for people over 25, and here Biden did 6.8% better than Clinton and 7.6% better than Obama in 2012. In Jefferson In the county with a bachelor’s degree rate of 44.1%, Clinton was around 2.4% behind Obama’s 2012 share. But Biden improved around 9% over Clinton’s 2016 share and around 6.6% over Obama’s 2012 win %.
The trend continued in the Denver suburbs. Biden improved significantly in Arapahoe (42.8% college graduate) and Douglas (58% college graduate) counties as he was eight points ahead of Clinton’s margins and outperforming Obama’s share of the vote by 7.8 and 9.2 points, respectively. Interestingly, in this state, his suburban profits persisted even as the educational level fell; For example, in Adams County, which has a graduation rate of 24.8%, Clinton was 6.2% behind Obama, but Biden reversed her deficit there by finishing 6.8% ahead of Clinton’s vote.
Those big wins are key to understanding Biden’s incredibly strong win in Colorado. Hillary Clinton won the state by just over 136,000 votes, while Biden won it with around 440,000 votes. But significantly, Biden has more than doubled Clinton’s vote margin in the five suburbs around Denver. The strength of the suburban swing resulted in Colorado turning double-digit blue for the first time in over 50 years.
The trends we see in Georgia, Colorado, and Minnesota are, to some extent, a microcosm of what we find nationally, and a reflection of a pattern that has emerged over the past decade. In countries where Biden ran behind Obama, education was a very influential factor. Below we see that in all of the 75 suburbs we looked at, there was a high degree of correlation between education rates and the net change in vote share between Biden and Obama. The better educated the county, the better Biden was.
Figure 1: Biden 2020 vs. Obama 2012 in major suburbs
It’s worth noting that, while the signs of educational polarization were even stronger in the 2020 vote, they certainly didn’t start there. Indeed, signs of this were visible in 2016. Clinton lacked Biden’s suburban strength, and he ran after Obama in 36 suburban counties, but it’s worth noting that 23 of those counties that Clinton lagged in had four-year rates of less than 40% voters, which in turn shows the increasing correlation between election preferences and educational level.
Whether Biden’s gains in the suburbs are permanent is the tough question for the Biden coalition (and indeed for the Democratic as a whole). Its strength in the well-populated and well-educated suburbs of America could be a way for the Democratic Party to build a permanent coalition with more regular voter turnout rates, which could bode well for them in mid-term elections. Alternatively, it could be a reminder of the volatility of political coalitions; After all, Mitt Romney won several of these counties less than a decade ago. As Georgia proved this year, the streaks go on and on until they stop doing it.
 The elasticity is described in this article about crystal balls. The set considered is the 2016 Presidential Race, 2016 Senatorial Race, 2018 Governor Race, and 2020 Presidential Race.
Lakshya Jain is a software engineer who recently completed a Masters degree in Computer Science from UC Berkeley with an emphasis on machine learning. His data-driven background and political interest led him to analyze elections in his spare time. You can find more of his analysis on politicsalad.com or on Twitter @ LXEagle17.
Kendall chews is the district attorney’s assistant, sports editor, and freelance writer. He can be followed on Twitter @kendallkaut and analyzes elections at https://kendallkaut.substack.com/