|Net Democratic minus Republican votes by urban status; |
Brookings Institution charts; click the image to enlarge it
"The key to Donald Trump’s surprising 2016 victory was his outsized performance in nonurban parts of the electorate, especially whiter rural counties in the critical states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In 2020’s race, Trump is again focusing his attention on this base—but voting patterns from the 2018 midterms and recent surveys indicate support for him in these places could be weaker than four years ago," writes William H. Frey, a senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. "The 2018 midterms led to a 'blue wave,' sending 40 additional Democrats to the House of Representatives. It also cut Republican voting margins in the vast majority of small metropolitan and rural counties, including those in northern battleground states."
Recent polls nationwide and in that trio of battleground states, plus Iowa, show a sharp shift among white voters towards Joe Biden and away from Trump. "Especially important for the 2020 election is the trend toward weaker Republican support in the vast majority of suburban, small metropolitan and rural counties. Among the 3,013 such counties, 2,436 showed rises in the D-R margins between 2016 and 2018. Many of these voted Republican in both the 2016 and 2018 elections, but with weaker—sometimes much weaker—Republican support in 2018," Frey reports.
"The trends revealed here point toward an electoral pivot in rural and small towns since 2016—if not to full-throated Biden support, then certainly to weaker Trump support," Frey reports. "While the 2018 midterm elections may not be a completely accurate predicator of county-level support for the president on Election Day 2020, it does indicate weaker Republican support among many small metropolitan and nonmetropolitan counties than what existed in 2016. Declining support for Trump among non-college whites in recent polls would seem to reinforce this trend."