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Young Americans and White college-educated voters flock to Biden in several battleground states, CNN exit polls show

Posted November 4, 2020 7:20 p.m. EST

— Young Americans and White voters with college degrees flocked to former Vice President Joe Biden in several key swing states, according to results of a nationwide CNN exit poll, moving him closer to capturing the electoral votes necessary to win the White House.

In Wisconsin, nearly 3 in 5 voters under the age of 30 supported Biden, compared with only 47% who cast ballots for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. Next door in Minnesota, nearly two-thirds of young voters selected Biden, compared to 45% who voted for Clinton. They helped propel him to victory in those states.

Among young voters in Arizona, which CNN has not yet projected for either Biden or President Donald Trump, the former vice president was the candidate of choice by more than 2 to 1, according to the national exit polls.

Trump lost support among the age group in those three states compared with 2016.

Visit CNN's Election Center for full coverage of the 2020 race

The former vice president also made gains among White voters with college degrees in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arizona and Nevada, capturing a larger share of that group than Clinton did four years earlier. He captured a double-digit lead with the group in Arizona and Pennsylvania, though Clinton did not win it in either of those states. CNN has not yet projected a winner in Nevada.

In Michigan, Biden picked up support among independents and senior citizens too, while he garnered more independent votes in Wisconsin, compared to Clinton four years ago. More Wisconsin and Michigan voters making less than $50,000 a year voted Democratic this year compared to 2016.

CNN's exit polls this year incorporate in-person interviews at early voting locations and telephone interviews to target by-mail voters. Those surveys are in addition to the in-person interviews with voters on Tuesday. In every state where exit poll results are available on election night, there will be a combined result to reflect a complete picture of voters across the country.

National exit polls show college-educated voters comprised a little less than half of the 2020 electorate, up slightly from 2 in 5 voters who had a college degree in 2016. White voters made up roughly 2 in 3 voters in the 2020 electorate, which is down slightly from 71% in the 2016 electorate. Women comprised just more than half of the electorate this year, according to those exit polls, similar to 2016.

Latinos turn out for Trump

Trump picked up more Latino voters in several states than he won in 2016. The President captured almost half of the group in Florida, up from 35% in 2016. Biden earned just over half of the Latino vote in the state, compared to 62% who supported Clinton four years ago.

Biden also lost support among Latino voters in Georgia and Ohio, which Democrats had hoped to flip. The former vice president was up only about 16 percentage points in Georgia and about 21 points in Ohio, compared to Clinton's margin of 40 percentage points and 41 points in Georgia and Ohio, respectively.

However, in preliminary results from Arizona, Latino voters favored Biden by nearly 2 to 1, with Trump barely making a dent. Clinton also won the Latino vote there handily in 2016.

Economy is the main concern

The economy was top of mind for voters as they cast ballots for president, according to the results of the nationwide CNN exit poll.

And while they were fairly evenly split on whether the country's economy is doing well, more than half said the coronavirus pandemic has caused them financial hardship. Still, around 2 in 5 said they are better off today than four years ago, compared to 1 in 5 who said they are worse off today.

The US suffered its steepest loss of jobs in April as states shuttered non-essential businesses and told residents to stay at home to try to contain the Covid-19 outbreak. While employers have rehired millions of Americans, the country is still down 10.7 million jobs since February. The 7.9% unemployment rate is the highest it's been ahead of a presidential election since the government started tracking the monthly rate in 1948.

About one-third of voters called the economy their most critical issue, while roughly 1 in 5 citing racial inequality and about 1 in 6 named the coronavirus pandemic as most important to their vote. Roughly 1 in 10 each cited health care policy and crime and safety as their top issue.

Among Biden supporters, more than one-third said racial inequality was their most important issue, beating out all others.

Even though more voters cited the economy than coronavirus as their most important issue in choosing a candidate, a narrow majority say that the nation's priority now should be containing the coronavirus over rebuilding the economy.

Views on all things coronavirus divided voters based on political leanings. Trump's supporters were far more likely to call the economy their top issue, with about 3 in 5 of the President's supporters saying so, compared to only 5% who cited coronavirus. Among Biden's supporters, about 3 in 10 said coronavirus is their top concern, compared to 1 in 10 who cited the economy.

Nearly 4 in 5 Biden supporters said containing the coronavirus should be the nation's priority, while roughly three-quarters of Trump backers felt rebuilding the economy is most important.

Containing the coronavirus

Overall, most voters felt the nation's efforts to contain the virus are going badly. But that sentiment varies widely by which candidates people are supporting.

More than 9 in 10 Biden voters say that efforts to contain the virus are going badly, while only 1 in 10 Trump supporters felt that way.

With coronavirus cases and hospitalizations rising in many states, around two-thirds of voters said they view wearing a face mask as a public health responsibility more than as a personal choice. But this also differs, with more than 4 in 5 Biden voters saying it's a public health responsibility, but only half of Trump supporters responding that it is.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the US reported nearly 9.5 million cases of the virus and more than 233,000 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. It is forecast to take tens of thousands more lives in coming months.

Loyal to their candidates

The majority of Trump and Biden supporters said they cast ballots more in support of their candidate than against his opponent, though Trump's base was even more loyal to him. More than 4 in 5 people said they voted for the President, while just under two-thirds of Biden's voters said the same.

The top quality voters were looking for in a president was a strong leader. One-third said so, while just under a quarter wanted someone with good judgment and just over one-fifth thought a candidate who "cares about people like me" was most important. Around one-fifth were looking for someone who can unite the country.

When it comes to the issues, nearly three-quarters of voters said a candidate's position on the issues was most important, while less than quarter named the candidate's personal qualities.

Two-thirds of voters said that climate change is a serious problem.

Some 3 in 5 voters said that Supreme Court appointees were an important factor in their vote -- Trump named three justices in his first term, shifting the court to the right. And more than half of voters said the high court should keep Obamacare as it is. Justices will hear oral arguments on a case that seeks to overturn the landmark health reform law next week.

Half of voters confident their ballots will be counted accurately

Voters largely found the experience of casting their ballots to be an easy one, though there is a wide gap between the share of White voters who said it was very easy (roughly three-quarters) and the share of Black voters who felt the same way (about half). About half overall said they are very confident that votes in their states will be accurately cast and counted, about the same as four years ago.

With a tidal wave of early and absentee voters this year, very few made up their minds in the final days of the contest: Just 5% said they made up their minds in the final week of the campaign, and over 4 in 5 said they made up their minds before September.

The survey suggests a high level of new voter participation. About 1 in 8 said 2020 is the first year they have ever voted, about on par with the share saying so in 2008.

CNN Exit Polls are a combination of in-person interviews with Election Day voters and telephone polls measuring the views of absentee by-mail and early voters and were conducted by Edison Research on behalf of the National Election Pool. In-person interviews on Election Day were conducted at a random sample of 115 polling locations nationwide among 7,774 Election Day voters. The results also include 4,919 interviews with early and absentee voters conducted by phone. Results for the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.

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