Democrats hold fragile coalition to maintain for the midterm elections

Democrats hold fragile coalition to maintain for the midterm elections
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Democrats and Republicans are working in opposition to change election laws across the country, and it has now become clear why they are doing so. A recent analysis conducted by our consulting firm for 2020 election exit poll data in swing states reveals the fragility of the key coalition built by Joe Biden and underscores the challenges that Democrats will face in holding this critical coalition together for the 2022 midterms.

In critical swing states during the election last fall, Republicans benefited from increased turnout among their voters, but Democrats ultimately won the White House by widening their margins among groups that swung for Republicans in the past. To be sure, most of the blocs that swung to Biden and enabled his victory, which include independents, white voters, voters with college degrees, and white men without college degrees, could also as easily swing back to Republicans for next year and beyond.

New voters overwhelmingly went for Democrats in 2020. Biden won these key new voters by more than 30 points nationally, and decisively won this group in those swing states of Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. So with several battleground states, Republicans have now introduced a slew of bills that would make registration harder for the new voters and blocs of the coalition of Democrats, such as Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, and younger voters. Republicans have also focused their efforts on limiting early voting and mailed ballots that could effectively set Democrats at a disadvantage across the board.


Democrats in Congress have responded with the For the People Act, a bill that could federalize election administration. They pitch it as legislation to increase voting access, a sympathetic goal which would benefit the party. Yet it has been criticized as a flawed and unrealistic bill that forces states to make significant changes with no promise of future funds.

Both of these efforts are politically motivated by the recent voting trends. In 2020, Republicans were energized, as turnout increased for each of the five swing states that flipped away from Donald Trump. These are Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Yet Biden was able to win in each of these swing states because of the shifts among new voters and other crucial blocs, including independents, who went for Biden by more than 10 points for each of these swing states that he flipped.

In Arizona, where the turnout advantage of Republicans rose by 9 points, Biden flipped it by winning new voters by over 20 points and because of constituencies that have swung to Republicans in the past. This includes white men and independents. Biden also benefited from changes among Democrats and Hispanics. In Michigan, where the turnout advantage for Democrats fell to zero, Biden flipped it by winning many new voters and white voters with college degrees among other crucial blocs.

It is clear both parties are pushing these changes to voting access out of the realization that the 2020 election was far closer than most Americans believed. Given the fragility of the coalition built by Biden, Democrats will continue to register voters, while Republicans will continue to shape laws which benefit their base and curb turnout among Democrats.

For Democrats, this data reveals the need to pursue a centrist agenda that can appeal to independents and the key blocs of white voters that swung to them in 2020, but could just as easily swing back to Republicans in the next election and beyond. For Republicans, our analysis demonstrates the staying power and the influence of Trump along the campaign trail and in turning out the base next November and perhaps also beyond.

Douglas Schoen and Carly Cooperman are pollsters and partners with the public opinion company Schoen Cooperman Research based in New York.