The nonwhite working class vote has received significant attention lately because of its central role in driving the strong performance of moderate, pro-law and order candidate Eric Adams in the New York City mayoral primary. Perhaps if the contours of the nonwhite working class vote in 2020 were more well-known the demographics of the New York results would have come as less of a surprise.
So, here are ten things we now know about nonwhite working class voters in the 2020 election. Catalist data are preferred for demographic data (the first four items) but where they are not available I draw on the newly released Pew validated voter results. Attitudinal data are drawn from the 2020 VOTER surveys sponsored by Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group.
1. While nonwhite voters as a whole moved toward the GOP in the 2020 election, working class (noncollege) nonwhites moved more sharply toward Trump than college nonwhites (12 margin points vs. 7 points, based on the two party vote).
2. Working class nonwhite women actually moved more toward Trump (14 points) than working class nonwhite men (9 points).
3. Since 2012, running against Trump twice, Democrats have lost 18 points off of their margin among nonwhite working class voters.
4. Working class voters still vastly outnumber college-educated voters. Among whites, working class voters were a bit over three-fifths of the vote. But among nonwhites, the working class contingent was a full two thirds of voters in 2020. This suggests trends among working class nonwhites will likely determine the future of the nonwhite vote.
5. Hispanic working class voters were particularly likely to shift to the Republicans in 2020. Pew data show a 30 point shift toward the GOP relative to 2018 (2016 not available), more than twice the 14 point shift among college Hispanics.
6. In terms of support levels, the Pew data indicate that noncollege Hispanics gave Trump a remarkable 41 percent of their vote in 2020.
7. The strong working class Hispanic shift is consistent with the detailed precinct-level analysis of the 2020 vote in Hispanic (and Asian) neighborhoods released by the New York Times last December.
8. The Hispanic vote is the most heavily working class nonwhite vote, pushing 80 percent working class according to Pew.
9. In the 2020 VOTER survey data, nonwhite working class voters thought the economy, jobs, the coronavirus, health care and crime were more important issues than racial equality and way more important than immigration.
10. Just 28 percent of nonwhite noncollege voters in the VOTER survey data supported defunding the police and only 27 percent favored decreasing the size of the police force and the scope of their work.
Maybe those New York mayoral results aren’t so surprising. And maybe the Democrats need to think long and hard about how they are appealing (or not) to the nonwhite working class.