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Why was the US election this close?

Biden supporters confront Trump loyalists on US election day. Reuters

Well, this certainly isn't how lots of people thought the US election would go. Most of the polls — may they rest in peace — foresaw a decisive Biden win. After all, Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 and didn't seem to care much about expanding his base since. Even when the economy boomed before COVID-19, his approval rating never even neared 50 percent. Then, of course, came the pandemic, and with it the worst short-term economic downturn since the Great Depression.

So why was this thing even close at all? Here are some preliminary thoughts.


For one, Trumpism is a viable and resilient political force. For about half of American voters, close to 70 million people now, either the style of Trumpism (a gratifyingly vulgar challenge to high-handed liberal "elites") or its substance (conservative justices, tax cuts, deregulation, decimating immigration) has a real, visceral appeal. In a deeply polarized country, Trump is selling what millions of people struggling with economic inequality, cultural anxieties, or racial resentment want to buy.

For another, Trump's coalition actually did grow — it got more female and... browner? The president lost some ground among his base of white male voters, but he padded his numbers among white women and, crucially, among voters of color. Black voters broke for Biden by a 60-point margin, but that's 8 points smaller than what Hillary Clinton did in 2016.

One particular spotlight at the moment is Trump's improved showing among the (hardly monolithic) "Latino vote". Two thirds of Latinos supported Biden, but Trump's standing improved by 3 points nationally, and by 12 points in Florida (where many Cuban American and Venezuelan American voters are especially suspicious of leftwing politics). In one heavily Mexican American district of Texas, meanwhile, there was a 55-point swing to Trump.

There are many potential reasons for Trump's growing shine among Latinos, but among them are his appeal for religious conservatives (on policy if not personal conduct), his pro-business policies, and his hard line on immigration, which many recently naturalized citizens in fact support. Biden's weak outreach to Latino voters, outside of Nevada at least, certainly didn't help.

The pandemic didn't figure as heavily as you'd think. Going into the election, we noted that "the economy" — rather than the pandemic — was the top concern for voters. Amid the pandemic-related recession, that might have augured poorly for Trump. But for a lot of voters who have experienced layoffs or bankruptcies without being directly affected by a coronavirus death, Trump's "the cure is worse than the disease" refrain resonated more strongly than public health experts would like.

But, still, Trumpism is not actually the American public's preference. The American system of electoral college votes rather than a straight-up nationwide election can sometimes obscure the real level of popular support for a candidate, or worse: twice in the past 20 years, the winner of the presidency has actually lost the popular vote (Bush in 2000 and Trump in 2016).

At the moment, despite Trump's unexpectedly strong showing, Biden is set to receive some 70 million votes, the highest total for any presidential candidate in US history. Trump is about 3 million votes behind. In addition, Biden's electoral map showed that some of the most reliably red states in the country may turn blue in the future. Biden is only the second Democrat to win Arizona in the past 70 years. He even made GOP bastion Texas competitive for the first time in decades.

That tells you that, in fact, a majority of Americans did reject the last four years of Trumpism. But it was only a small majority. And even Biden does squeak out the win here, likely GOP control of the Senate will make it very hard for him to make good on his pledges to roll back Trump's impact on American politics and society. The power and appeal of Trumpism will outlast Trump's (possible) departure from the White House.

Dating and debates, music festivals and dance classes, work and education – an increasing amount of our social interactions now take place online. With this shift to virtual venues, ensuring kindness and respect in everyday interactions and encounters is more important than ever.

The digital space has become a fundamental part of the national and international conversation, and has also, at times, become a breeding ground for bullying, trolling and hate speech. There is a clear need for more "digital good" to ensure that online encounters have a constructive impact on everyone involved. To learn more about digital good and what it means, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

As the global vaccination race heats up, the most populous country in the world is trying to do three very hard things at once.

India, grappling with the second highest confirmed COVID caseload in the world, recently embarked on what it called "the world's largest" coronavirus vaccination campaign, seeking to inoculate a sizable swath of its 1.4 billion people.

That alone would be a herculean challenge, but India is also making hundreds of millions of jabs as part of the global COVAX initiative to inoculate low-income countries. And as if those two things weren't enough, Delhi also wants to win hearts and minds by doling out millions more shots directly to other countries in its neighborhood.

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Millions of people leave their home countries each year, fleeing conflict or violence, seeking better work opportunities, or simply to be closer to family. What proportion of those people are women? In many of the countries that are home to the largest migrant populations, a majority, in fact. While many women leave home for the same reasons as men (social instability or economic opportunity) gender-based violence or persecution often play a special role in women's decisions to pick up stakes and move. Here's a look at the gender breakdown of some of the world's largest migrant populations.

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.

Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).

His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.

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Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (a little over) 60 Seconds:

The Biden administration announced its first sanctions. How will it affect US-Russia relations?

Not very much. About as bad as they were under the Trump administration, even though Trump personally wanted to be aligned with Putin, the administration was not. This is the same approach on sanctions as we've seen from the European Union, they could go a lot harder. It's not sector level. It's not major state enterprises. It's a few Russian officials that were involved in the chemical program for Russia. And at the end of the day, the Russians are annoyed, but they're not going to hit back. That's that. Okay.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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