Trump’s 2016 Voters Have Died

Originally sent to VIXCONTANGO subscribers on February 13th, 2020

Impact of Mortality on the 2020 Race

One thing that is not often discussed is how mortality and demographic turnover affects the presidential race. 4 years is a long period of time and the population that votes changes. Old people die and young people who weren’t legally able to vote are now eligible to vote. Here, I will look at how many people the oldest cohort has lost over the last 4 years and what kind of voters replaced it from the youngest cohort. About 2.8 million people in the US die each year. We can assume vast majority (90%) of those die from old age. In a 4 year period between 2016 and 2020 11.2 million old people died. In the US 18 years is the voting age so people born from 1999 to 2002 will be eligible to vote for the first time in 2020. The birth rate in those years averaged 4 million, so about 12 million new Millennial voters will be eligible to vote replacing the 11.2 million Silent generation voters.

There is a big discrepancy in the voting patterns of the oldest generation and the youngest generation. The Silent generation votes 51% Republican vs 45% Democrat. The Millennials on the other hand vote 62% Democratic vs 29% Republicans. In particular, Millennials made a massive move towards the Democratic Party after the election of Trump jumping from 50% Democratic to 62%. Trump’s approval rating among millennials is really bad as well with 65% disapproving of his performance. The Millennial generation is absolutely terrified of Trump.

When we plug these numbers in the Birth/Death Voter Turnover model, we see that the GOP loses about 5.7 million voters due to old age and adds about 3.48 million for a net loss of -2.23 million voters from 2016 to 2018. Democrats on the other hand lose 5.04 million but add 7.44 million potential new voters for a net add of 2.4 million. Pretty clear demographic advantage for Democrats here over the past 4 years. But this doesn’t tell the whole story. Each generation turns out differently at the ballot box. Older voters exercise their voting rights more than young people. On average 70% of older voters show up to vote and only 51% of young voters. When factoring the turnout differential we see that the Republican Party remains in truly dire straits. It is losing voters which are turning out at a high rate and is replacing them with fewer young voters who turnout at a lower rate. The math is really bad for the GOP. The GOP loses 4 million voters to only add 1.77 million in 2020 or -2.2 million loss. Among democrats the higher proportion of young voters who vote Democrat overcomes the lower turnout and the base remains stable.

From Birth/Death perspective, we can expect voter turnout for Democrats to be roughly what it was during the Obama years, however we can see that Republicans have lost 2.2 million voters over the last 4 years. Trump’s totals in 2020 are likely to come in at minimum 2.2 million less than 2016. Trump got 62.9 million votes in the general election in 2016. That means Trump will be lucky to get 60 million voters in 2020.

The combined population of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania is 29 million or about 8.7% of the US population. If we apply the nationwide totals to those 3 states, they have lost 190,000 GOP voters over the past 4 years. Given that about 77,000 votes decided the 2016 presidential election in Wisconsin (22K), Michigan (10K) and Pennsylvania (44K), the unfortunate fact for Trump is that the GOP voters in those states that made him president are now dead.