Published February 10, 2021
Common wisdom holds that former president Donald Trump badly hurt the Republican Party. A recent analysis of exit poll data by Trump’s campaign pollsters, however, shows he might have actually helped it.
The analysis, prepared by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, analyzed exit surveys from the 10 key states in the 2016 and 2020 campaigns. The data — from the National Election Pool’s exit poll, the source used by most news networks, and the AP Vote Cast — includes responses from more than 75,000 voters. Fabrizio Lee broke the 10 states into two groups: the five that Joe Biden flipped in 2020 (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin), and five other close states that Trump held (Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas). The analysts then looked at changes in partisan identification and Trump support among a host of demographic categories in those states.
There’s a lot of good news for the GOP. Strikingly, the share of the electorate identifying as Republican was up in both sets of states. In both groups, Republicans made up 38 percent of all voters in 2020, up from 34 percent in the flipped states and 35 percent in the held states in 2016. Moreover, the share of Democratic voters went down, dropping by two percentage points from 2016 in both sets of states. Taken together, this means the GOP leads the Democrats by eight points in held states and by four points in flipped ones (though neither party claims a majority anywhere, given the sizable share of independents). Trump’s controversial four years moved the GOP from parity to a small but significant lead in terms of partisan voters in the nation’s most politically crucial states.
Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.