As former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden draws closer to a potential victory, the Boone County Muleskinners took a closer look at the demographics of voters on both sides. 

David Leuthold, a political analyst and former political science professor at MU, spoke to the group at its weekly Friday afternoon meeting about voter statistics and Amendment 3.

All around, Leuthold said, this election has been unusual. He described the presidential race as "unusually close." Biden and President Donald Trump have been within percentage points of each other in several key states since Tuesday's election.

Races for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have also been tight. To retain a majority in the House, Leuthold said Democrats need to win seven more seats, and they were only leading in nine races. The Senate majority will depend on Georgia's runoff election. 

The sheer number of votes in this election is also unusual, Leuthold said. Biden and Trump have both broken the record for the most votes received by a candidate, previously held by former President Barack Obama. Trump has gained nearly 7 million more votes than his total in 2016.

Those numbers reflect the dramatic increase in voter turnout, which is also expected to be record-breaking. 

"The striking thing for me was that after four years of the chaos of President Trump that he increased his vote total," Leuthold said. "I, as a Democrat, understand why it would be an increase of votes for Biden by people who are upset with Trump, but the important aspect that this election shows, and certainly a matter of concern, is that Trump increased his number of votes also."

Trump's votes tended to come from more rural areas, with his biggest demographic being white men who did not graduate college, Leuthold said, while Biden found more success in urban areas and with white suburban women. 

The divide between rural and urban areas is evident in Missouri. In this election, the counties that include Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia were the only ones to vote predominately blue, while the rest of the state remained red. 

Voter demographics have also shifted along class lines in recent history, Leuthold said.

"Generally the working class people used to be Democrats, and they have now become Republicans. We've lost them," he said. "In return, we have picked up a lot of elites and suburbanites."

Based on polling numbers, Leuthold said, the biggest issues for Trump supporters were the economy and crime and safety, while Biden voters prioritized racial inequalities, coronavirus response and health care. Leuthold said he believes voters tended to pick a candidate first, then adopt similar viewpoints. That applies to both sides, he said, and he turned the question to the Muleskinners.

"Think to what extent your policy position would change if Bernie Sanders had been the nominee of the party," he said. "I think many of us would have been arguing for more of Bernie Sanders' positions," Leuthold said. "Although at this point we are not as enthusiastic about them, we would become so because of the needs of supporting our candidates."

If Biden wins, Leuthold anticipates chaos between now and the inauguration, as well as continued support for Trump once he's out of office. 

"I expect that we will see quite a bit of Trump," Leuthold said. "He will not fade into the woodwork. He loves being in the news."

Leuthold also gave a brief history of Amendment 3, a redistricting amendment in Missouri that passed with 51% of the state's votes. It was a contentious proposal, since it undid parts of the Clean Missouri initiative that voters passed in 2018. 

  • Public life reporter, fall 2020. Studying print and digital news journalism. Reach me at skylarlaird@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5720

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