36 Facts About the 2020 Elections

In keeping with our end-of-cycle tradition, we found 36 interesting things to tide you over during the holidays as we take a break. 

PRESIDENTIAL: 

1. A president's job approval rating is one of the most consistent (and accurate) predictors of electoral performance. Voters who think the president is doing a good job usually vote to re-elect this president. Voters who think that the president is doing a lousy job are almost certain to vote against that person.2. Joe Biden won the popular vote by 7.1 million (4.5 percentage points), but Donald Trump came within 42,918 votes (Biden's combined margin of victory in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin) of a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College, which would likely have been resolved in Trump's favor in the House. Trump came within 65,009 votes of winning 270 Electoral votes outright, when including Biden's win in Nebraska's 2nd District.

3. The pro-Trump gap between the national popular vote (Biden +4.5) and the tipping point state (Wisconsin, Biden +0.6) was about a full point wider than it was in 2016, when Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.1 points and lost the tipping point state (also Wisconsin) by 0.8 points.

4. Biden carried 85 percent of counties with a Whole Foods Market and 32 percent of counties with a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store — a 53 point culture gap. This is larger than the 52 point gap between the same counties in 2016 (Trump carried 74 percent of Cracker Barrel counties and 22 percent of Whole Foods counties that year), the 43 point gap in 2008, the 31 point gap in 2000 and the 19 point gap in 1992.

5. The Whole Foods counties that flipped from Trump to Biden included Maricopa, AZ; Duval, FL; Pinellas, FL; Johnson, KS; Hillsborough, NH; Monmouth, NJ; Morris, NJ; New Hanover, NC; Montgomery, OH; Deschutes, OR; Tarrant, TX; Williamson, TX and Virginia Beach, VA. The largest Cracker Barrel counties to flip from Clinton to Trump were Lorain and Mahoning, OH.

6. Overall, 158.4 million Americans voted in the presidential election, more than 21 million more than in 2016. The state with the largest raw vote increase over 2016 was Hawaii, with a 34 percent surge. The state with the smallest increase was North Dakota, with a five percent increase.

7. The state that swung the most against Trump versus 2016 was Vermont, with a nine point anti-Trump swing, followed by Colorado (8.6 points) and Delaware (7.6 points). The state that swung towards Trump the most versus 2016 was Hawaii (2.7 points), followed by Utah (2.4 points) and Florida (2.2 points). Nebraska's 2nd CD, anchored by Omaha and worth one Electoral vote, swung towards Democrats more than any swing state (8.8 points).

8. Eleven Trump-won states — Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia — swung more against Trump between 2016 and 2020 than Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin did. Two — Kansas and Nebraska —swung more against Trump than Georgia did.

9. The county that swung the most against Trump versus 2016 was Henry County, GA, which voted for Biden by 21 points after voting for Clinton by four points in 2016. The county that swung the most towards Trump was Starr County, TX, which voted for Biden by five points after voting for Clinton by 60 points in 2016.

10. The most populous county to swing more than 20 points towards Trump was Miami-Dade, FL. Meanwhile, Georgia was home to five of the ten counties that swung the most against Trump. Despite that, Biden won more Florida counties - and fewer Georgia counties — than Clinton won four years ago.

11. Joe Biden carried 224 of 435 congressional districts, down slightly from the 230 districts Trump carried in 2016. Had every state allocated its Electoral votes by district in the same manner as Maine and Nebraska, Biden would have won the Electoral College 277 to 261 instead of 306 to 222.
 

SENATE: 

12. Senate races still largely went the same way as the presidential election did in that state, save for Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who outran Trump by 7.2 points to win re-election. In 2008, she outran John McCain on the ballot by nearly 21 points, and in 1996 she outpaced Bob Dole in the state by more than 18 points. Her 2020 result is still the largest overperformance in a competitive race with Trump on the ballot by a Republican ever, outpacing Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s 6.69 in 2016, but Collins was in far more danger than Portman was and Trump won Ohio, while he lost Maine in 2020. In 2016, every single Senate race went the same way as the presidential race; this year, it was all but one.

13. Democrat Sara Gideon in Maine had the worst performance by a Democrat in a Toss Up race in comparison to the presidential results, running behind Joe Biden in the state by 11 points.

14. The Republican who ran the most behind Trump was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose winning margin was 4.4 points less than Trump, but he nonetheless sailed to a very comfortable 20 point win.

15. If Republicans hold onto both Senate seats in the January 5 Georgia runoffs, it will be the first time since tracking our Toss Up races that all the contests broke 100 percent one way for one party.

16. In Senate races we didn’t rate as Solid, Democrats (candidates + outside groups) spent $1,078,640,272 on TV ads, according to data from AdImpact. Republicans meanwhile, spent $850,828,443. In total, $1,929,468,715 was spent on TV ads this cycle.

17. The most expensive Senate race was North Carolina, where a total of $263,675,801 was spent by both parties on TV ads. Democrats spent more ($151,694,974) than Republicans ($111,980,827), outspending them by $39.7 million. Iowa was second, with $217,043,080 spent in total. Again, Democrats ($128,320,541) outspent Republicans ($88,722,539) by $39.6 million. Democrats nonetheless lost both races.

18. The most money spent in a state per vote was in Montana, where Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock and his Democratic allies ended up spending about $323 per vote. In comparison, GOP Sen. Steve Daines, who won by 10 points, spent $193 per vote. The next biggest disparity was in Maine, where Democrats spent $272 per vote compared to $172 per vote for Republicans in a race that Democrats also lost.

19. The best bargain in a state that flipped was in Alabama, where Republicans spent just $12 per vote to have former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville oust Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. Democrats spent $17 per vote.

20. In Colorado, one of the two states Democrats flipped so far, Republicans did outspend Democrats per vote, $31 to $29, only to have GOP Sen. Cory Gardner lose to former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper by almost 10 points.

21. In all competitive races (excluding both Georgia races), Democrats spent on average $94 per vote, while Republicans spent $60 per vote.

HOUSE: 

22. In January, House Democrats will represent 51 percent of all House seats, but just 16 percent of the nation's land area — the smallest geographical footprint of any majority in modern history.

23. All 13 of the Republicans who have been certified as the winners in Democratic-held districts were women and/or minorities — including three of Cuban descent, two of Korean descent, one African-American and ten women. Of the 46 freshman Republicans entering the House, 18 are women — more than Republicans' current tally from 13 to 29.

24. The top three most expensive House races of 2020 — in terms of both candidate and outside spending — were California's 25th District ($37.9 million), New Mexico's 2nd District ($36.7 million) and Texas's 22nd District ($34.1 million), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

25. The four largest outside spenders in House races (the DCCC, NRCC, House Majority PAC and Congressional Leadership Fund) spent a combined $442 million, including $196 million in races that were decided by more than five points and $42 million in races decided by more than ten. Meanwhile, there were 10 races Democrats won by less than five points where GOP groups failed to spend more than $500,000. Had Republicans invested in those races, they might have won back the House majority.

26. Democrats would likely have lost their House majority in 2020 had it not been for lawsuits that overturned GOP-drawn congressional maps prior to 2016 (Florida and Virginia), 2018 (Pennsylvania) and 2020 (North Carolina). The new, court-ordered maps gave Democrats approximately ten more seats than they would have won under the old lines — roughly double Democrats' new House edge.

27. According to FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich, there have only been three federal elections in the last century decided by less than 20 votes. This year alone, there may be two such races: Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks was certified as the winner in Iowa's 2nd CD by six votes, and Republican Claudia Tenney currently holds a lead of 11 votes in New York's 22nd CD.

28. There will be at most 17 congressional districts that split their tickets between the presidential and congressional ballots, the fewest in the past century (there were 35 such districts in 2016 and 83 in 2008).

29. The biggest overperformance of the top of the ticket by a House Democrat was by Rep. Collin Peterson (MN-07), who lost by only 13.6 points despite Biden losing his district by 29.4 points. The biggest overperformance of the top of the ticket by a House Republican was by Rep. John Curtis (UT-03), who won by 41.9 points while Trump won his district by just 25.1 points.

30. The biggest underperformance of the top of the ticket by a House Democrat was by Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-05), who won by 38.5 points as Biden won the district by 55 points. The biggest underperformance of the top of the ticket by a House Republican was by Rep. Jim Hagedorn (MN-01), who won by 3.1 points as Trump carried the district by 10.1 points.

31. High turnover: there are eight districts that have elected four different members to the House in the past five elections: Florida's 19th District, Florida's 26th District, Iowa's 1st District, Montana's At Large district, New York's 11th District, South Carolina's 1st District, Utah's 4th District and Virginia's 5th District.

GOVERNORS: 

32. There are now only 10 states that have a governor of a different party from the state’s presidential results. In 2008, that number was 18.

33. Republicans now have 27 governors in the country, compared to 23 for Democrats after flipping one state (Montana) this year. That’s an improvement over four years, because when President Obama left office Democrats were down to holding just 16 governor’s mansions, compared to 33 for Republicans.

34. In North Carolina, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper managed to outrun Joe Biden by 3 points, winning statewide even as Trump and GOP Sen. Thom Tillis won the state.

35. Republican governors in New England posted impressive margins even as Trump lost their states handily. In Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott, who has been highly critical of Trump and even said he voted for Biden, won by 42 points, outrunning Trump by 38 points in the state. In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu won by 32 points and outran Trump on the ballot by 20 points.

36. There are now just 11 states that have divided control between the governor and state legislature. 24 states have complete GOP control, while 15 states have Democratic control.