Clinton v. Trump: Demographics Shifting?

In recent years, many pundits have argued that shifting demographics are giving Democrats an Electoral College and popular vote advantage. The electorate is gradually becoming less white and more educated. Since nonwhite voters and college-educated voters tend to vote Democratic, this seems like a reason to celebrate within the Democratic Party. At the same time, Donald Trump–the Republican presidential nominee in 2016–has argued that he will make significant gains within these groups on Election Day. Let’s examine the current polling compared to past elections in order to find out if Trump is right.


Over time men have leaned Republican while women have leaned Democratic, yet Donald Trump claims that he will do very well with women voters this year. Based on the most recent CNN polling data and the popular vote of past elections, the following graphs compare Trump to past candidates regarding performance with men and women.

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With men Trump is performing worse than all past Republicans who won the popular vote in modern history. Additionally, Mitt Romney and George W. Bush did better with men and still lost the popular vote. This is surely a warning sign for him heading into Election Day. A group that typically leans red is not as robustly so as in past elections that gave the Republican candidate the popular vote. The regression line reveals that over time men are becoming more Democratic. Now, how about with women?

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Again we see that Trump is performing worse than almost all past Republican winners of the popular vote in modern history. Additionally, George W. Bush in 2000 and George H.W. Bush in his reelection bid in 1992 did better with women and still lost the popular vote. Only George H.W. Bush in 1988 performed worse with women and still won the Presidency. The regression line reveals that over time women are becoming more Democratic.

Thus, with both men and women, Trump is behind in the polls. Possibly over the next two weeks until Election Day, he can make some gains with both groups, yet the odds seem unlikely with such little time left. Trump has been cast as a sexually aggressive misogynist late in this campaign. Especially running against a woman, this is an uphill battle for him.


Trump has argued that he will do much better with nonwhite voters this election since he has vower to fix their social and economic environments. Additionally, white voters have typically been a solid Republican bloc. Are voters turning to Trump?

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Almost as with women, Trump performs worse with white voters than almost all other successful Republican candidates in modern history–with the exception of George W. Bush in 2004. Additionally, Mitt Romney and George W. Bush did better with whites and still lost the popular vote. H.W. Bush, Reagan, and Nixon did much better with whites. This is especially a problem for Trump as white voters make up an exceedingly smaller share of the electorate each cycle. The regression line reveals that over time white voters are becoming more Democratic.

The flip side of this group is nonwhite voters. Are they being persuaded by Trump’s rhetoric and policy platforms?

Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 10.23.39 AM.png

Actually, yes. According to current polling, Trump has minimized the gap between nonwhite voters that lean Democratic and Republican. Democrats still heavily lead in this demographic, yet Trump is performing better than all past Republican candidates in modern history–winner or loser. Nonwhite voters are increasingly making up a larger part of the electorate, so if Trump actually does better than previous candidates with this group, he has a better chance of winning the Presidency. The regression line reveals that over time nonwhite voters are becoming more Republican, and Trump is fitting that trend.


There’s been much discussion this election season over how voters with different levels of education are splitting. Pundits have talked about how Trump has played heavily toward voters who do not have a college degree. Most of those voters tend to be blue collar, working folks, and Trump tries to do well with this group with his populistic rhetoric. Do the numbers support him?

Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 10.23.58 AM.png

Not so much. Trump is currently performing better than George W. Bush did in 2004, but he does worse than all other past modern successful Republicans. Additionally, John McCain did better with non-college-educated voters and still lost the popular vote. The regression line reveals that over time non-college-educated voters are becoming more Democratic. A consolation to this performance, though, is that non-college-educated voters increasingly make up less of the electorate. However, in order to truly do well in with this area of demographics, Trump needs to win over college-educated voters. Does he?

Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 10.23.49 AM.png

Not all all. Trump is performing worse than all past modern Republicans–winner or loser. This is especially worrying as college-educated voters make up increasingly more of the electorate each cycle. The regression line reveals that over time college-educated voters are becoming more Democratic, and Trump is suffering from that trend.


Donald Trump has worked to make inroads with many demographics in this election season, yet his often off-color rhetoric has hurt him in most areas. The demographics with which Trump is historically under-performing are:

  • Men (all past elections)
  • Women (except for 1 of 5 elections)
  • Whites (except for 1 of 5 elections)
  • Non-college-educated voters (except for 1 of 5 elections)
  • College-educated voters (all past elections)

Thus, in all demographics except for nonwhite voters, Trump is doing worse than past successful Republican candidates. We compare him to the successful candidates as that shows us what is possibly needed in order to win the White House. Regarding nonwhite voters, there is a glimpse of hope for Trump here in that nonwhites are increasing in electorate share. However, Trump’s historic under performance with college-educated voters is more troubling since their electorate share continues to increase rapidly.

However, a few times in our analysis, we saw George W. Bush in 2004 performing worse with some demographics than Trump yet winning in the end. Could Trump have a Bush reelection win? For one, Bush had an incumbency advantage, which Trump does not share. Furthermore, while Bush did worse with whites, nonwhites, and non-college-educated voters than Trump is performing, Bush did better men, women, and college-educated voters. While nonwhites are increasing in electorate share, whites and non-college-educated voters are losing their share. Thus, Trump faces a different electorate and different uphill battles than Bush did in his reelection fight.

We shall see if these numbers materialize on Election Day. cropped-new-logo.jpeg

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