Culture Wars/Current Controversies

A new report complicates simplistic narratives about race and the 2020 election

The report from the firm Catalist looks at what changed since 2016, but also at the parties’ coalitions overall.

In the days and weeks after presidential election results come in, commentators attempting to figure out what happened with voter demographics are often in a fog — forced to rely on unreliable exit polls. More rigorous analysis simply takes longer.

Now, Catalist, a Democratic data firm, has put out a report on “What Happened in 2020,” authored by Yair Ghitza and Jonathan Robinson, which makes a serious attempt to answer that question. The report is superior to the exit polls because it’s based in their research for what’s known as a “voter file.” Basically, they’ve put together a large database of turnout information about actual voters, assembled from state or local records about who actually showed up.

That information has its limits — it’s a secret ballot, so we don’t know who specific people voted for. But this information can be supplemented with precinct-level vote results, census information, and survey findings. The Catalist authors put all this together to estimate how different demographics voted. Some of their general findings about what changed since 2016:


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