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  • Union members decisive in the 2020 Presidential Election
    Posted On: May 21, 2019
    Bulletpoint No. 1: The union vote could be key in both the primary and the general election

    In 2016, unionized workers were essential in helping Hillary Clinton maintain her lead over Bernie Sanders. Although a handful of major unions endorsed Sanders, most of the biggest ones — including the NEA, the SEIU, AFSCME, UFCW and the UAW — endorsed Clinton. And while some of those unions’ members defected to Sanders, Clinton mostly held the support of their rank and file, with Clinton winning union voters 62-36 over Sanders, per the Cooperative Congressional Election Study.

    So it’s not surprising that Joe Biden kicked off his campaign on Monday by touting his endorsement from the International Association of Fire Fighters. It’s also not surprising that President Trump, perhaps sensing that Biden was encroaching on his turf, spent much of Wednesday morning retweeting accounts from firefighters who said they were planning to vote for Trump. Most union members voted Democratic in 2016 — but Trump did much better with them than Mitt Romney had four years earlier.

    Nor was Trump’s union support merely a matter of white men shifting en masse to Trump. While white women and nonwhite men in unions mostly voted for Clinton, her margins with those groups were considerably narrower than Barack Obama’s in 2012.

    Union voters shifted toward Trump in 2016

    Presidential vote share among union members in 2012 and 2016, by race and gender

    All labor union members
    Year Margin
    2012 Obama 64.8% Romney 30.4% +34.4
    2016 Clinton 55.2 Trump 38.4 +16.7
    White men in labor unions
    Year Margin
    2012 Obama 52.3% Romney 41.9% +10.5
    2016 Clinton 40.7 Trump 52.5 -11.9
    Nonwhite men in labor unions
    Year Margin
    2012 Obama 81.4% Romney 13.9% +67.5
    2016 Clinton 73.2 Trump 18.6 +54.7
    White women in labor unions
    Year Margin
    2012 Obama 64.5% Romney 31.0% +33.5
    2016 Clinton 55.7 Trump 38.6 +17.2
    Nonwhite women in labor unions
    Year Margin
    2012 Obama 88.5% Romney 8.9% +79.7
    2016 Clinton 83.0 Trump 12.9 +70.2

    2012 election results reflect voters who were union members as of 2016 and participated in the 2016 CCES

    Source: COOPERATIVE CONGRESSIONAL ELECTION STUDY

    In fact, the shift among union voters was enough to swing the election to Trump. According to the CCES, Obama won union voters by 34.4 percentage points in 2012, but Clinton did so by only 16.7 points in 2016. That roughly 18-point swing was worth a net of 1.2 percentage points for Trump in Pennsylvania, 1.1 points in Wisconsin and 1.7 points in Michigan based on their rates of union membership1 — and those totals were larger than his margins of victory in those states.

    by Nate Silver, Silver Bullets, May 2, 2019


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