When President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office in January, he’ll have a group of voters to thank in particular for delivering him the White House: women.
Women supported Biden at higher rates than men — especially Black women voters, who rallied behind President Obama’s former V.P. at crucial turns during his 2020 presidential campaign.
While election data won’t be finalized until each state finishes tabulating its votes, early exit polls show President-elect Biden winning the votes of 57 percent of women, compared to 45 percent of men. In comparison, President Trump won 42 percent of women’s votes and 53 percent of men’s votes.
Women once again voted at higher rates than men, and in this year of record voter turnout, they’ve cast more votes than ever before.
“I don't know that there were major shifts,” said Susan Carroll, senior scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, referring to the enduring “gender gap” in which women tend to favor Democratic candidates, and the longstanding trend of women voting at higher rates than men. The difference, she said, was turnout. “I think it's just more. There was just more of it.”
While Biden made gains among college-educated, white women voters who supported him in greater numbers than they did Hillary Clinton four years ago, Black women voters carried him over the finish line. In this year’s presidential election, nearly nine out of 10 Black voters cast their vote for Biden, according to a survey by AP VoteCast. Among Black women, that number was even higher — 91 percent, as exit polls stand now — with 80 percent Black men voting for Biden. While President Trump generated more support from Black voters in 2020 than he did in 2016, he won only 8 percent of the vote among Black women and 18 percent among Black men. Overall, Black voters comprised 11 percent of the voter pool.
“Either because of enthusiasm, or because of [voter] registration, or just because of demographic shifts, there may have been slightly more Black voters this time around than last time around,” said Eran Ben-Porath, executive vice president at SSRS, a survey and market research firm. “To the extent that their support is in the high 80s, overall percentage-wise, for Biden that obviously can push him up.”
And as Biden mentioned in his victory speech on Saturday night, Black voters carried him to victory not only on Election Day, but at key times when his candidacy was slipping. Their support during the South Carolina Primary last March enabled Biden to win the state’s contest and clear the Democratic field before Super Tuesday.
“The African-American community stood up again for me,” Biden said during his victory speech on Saturday night. “You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.”
The issue of racial justice, which became a flashpoint during the general election season after the death of George Floyd sparked protests around the world, motivated voters. Despite Trump’s appeals to suburban women on a “law and order” message, an early exit poll found that more than half of white suburban women said they have a favorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement and nearly half said they believed that the justice system is unfair to Black people.
Some women were also motivated by the opportunity to elect Sen. Kamala Harris of California, the first-ever woman and woman of color on a major-party presidential ticket. Biden also has said he would nominate a Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court if a vacancy arises during his presidential term.
Finally, it’s likely that the Covid-19 pandemic played a big role in how women voted. In a poll conducted by Gallup in October, women in both parties were more likely than men to say that the coronavirus response was “extremely important to their vote.”
This may be partially due to women taking on a greater share of child and elder care responsibilities amid Covid-19. They have consistently taken the lead on at-home education, and suffered job losses and left the workforce at a higher rate than men.
However, a record gender gap predicted ahead of the election largely failed to materialize, despite the challenges Trump has faced garnering support among women voters over his time in office. That includes accusations of sexual assault or harassment or other inappropriate behavior by more than 18 women, which Trump denies, and a family separation policy opposed by 70 percent of women.
Yet, Trump gained more support among Hispanic women in states along the U.S.-Mexico border than he did in 2016, earning the votes of 38 percent of Hispanic women in Texas and 32 percent of Hispanic women in Arizona, according to preliminary exit polls. He also commanded 45 percent of the vote among Hispanic women in Florida, where he had campaigned by attempting to brand the Democrats as socialists in the heavily Cuban-American and Venezuelan-American state. His share of the vote among that demographic increased by 11 percent. Overall, more Latinas supported Biden than Trump, and more Latina women supported Biden than did Latino men.
Meanwhile, white women seem to have maintained or slightly increased their level of support for Trump compared to 2016, with some 55 percent of them voting for Trump this election cycle and 43 percent voting for Biden according to early exit polls.
“Trump and the Republicans certainly had their groups of women who supported them as well,” Carroll said, noting Trump’s enduring support from white women without college degrees and evangelical women. “So women are not monolithic in terms of which side they're on or who they vote for.”