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Trump got more votes in Minnesota in 2020 than he did in 2016. But Biden got way more than Clinton did

As in past elections, the Democrat’s victory was driven by votes from the Twin Cities suburbs.

President Donald Trump speaking about early results from the 2020 U.S. presidential election in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday.
President Donald Trump speaking about early results from the 2020 U.S. presidential election in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday.
REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Donald Trump won more votes in Minnesota in 2020 than he did in 2016.

Still, it wasn’t enough to flip the state red, as former Vice President Joe Biden looked set to win Minnesota’s ten electoral votes with a seven point edge over Trump as of publication, with some votes yet to be counted. In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried Minnesota by just 1.5 points.

On Wednesday morning, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon estimated turnout in the election could hit 78 percent — which would be three points higher than turnout in the last presidential go-around in 2016.

Biden and Trump both received more votes in every region of the state — Greater Minnesota, the Twin Cities and the Twin Cities suburbs — than their 2016 equivalents: in Trump’s case, himself, and in Biden’s, Clinton. But Biden’s victory was driven by earning far more votes than Clinton did in each of those places.

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The suburbs propelled Biden to victory in Minnesota

As in 2016, the Democrat’s victory relied heavily on running up vote margins in the Twin Cities suburbs. (For the purposes of this piece, we define the suburbs as the seven-county metro region of Anoka, Dakota, Carver, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington minus Minneapolis and St. Paul.) As Greater Minnesota turns more solidly Republican and Minneapolis and St. Paul consistently turn out for Democrats, the Twin Cities suburbs, where 45 percent of votes for president in the state came from Tuesday night, represent the biggest pocket of voters up for grabs for either party.

In recent years, or so the story goes, President Donald Trump’s unpopularity in the Twin Cities suburbs has helped Democrats win statewide, from Hillary Clinton in 2016 to Tim Walz and Keith Ellison in 2018.

Tuesday night appeared to be no exception. Maps of election returns show Biden pushing further out into suburban precincts than Clinton was able to do in 2016.

Votes by region, 2016 and 2020 presidential elections
Note: 2020 vote tallies preliminary and are expected to change as more votes are added, at least under a current plan that accounts for an Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of appeals ruling, as ballots postmarked by Election Day arrive over the next week. In this chart, the suburbs include Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties minus Minneapolis and St. Paul. Greater Minnesota includes the 80 counties outside the seven-county metro.
Source: Minnesota Secretary of State

Not only was turnout higher in the suburbs than it was in 2016, Biden won more of the votes there than Clinton did.

In 2016, Clinton won 49 percent of suburban votes, compared to 57 percent of the suburban votes Biden has so far.

Biden didn’t only do better than Clinton in the suburbs, he did less poorly than Clinton in Greater Minnesota (defined here as the 80 counties outside the seven-county Twin Cities metro).

Former Vice President Joe Biden raises a fist as he delivers remarks on Election Night in Wilmington, Delaware.
REUTERS/Mike Segar
While both Joe Biden and Donald Trump received more votes in every region of the state than their 2016 equivalents (in Trump’s case, himself, and in Biden’s, Clinton), Biden’s victory was driven by earning far more votes in each of those places.
Clinton won only 35 percent of votes in Greater Minnesota, while Biden, who still lost the Greater Minnesota region as a whole, had 39 percent of the vote as of Wednesday morning’s returns, widening his advantage over Clinton in that part of the state as well.

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Suburban vote share growing?

We won’t know for sure yet until all the votes are counted, but this may be the year that the Twin Cities suburbs usurp Greater Minnesota as a voting bloc in a Minnesota presidential election.

As their populations have grown, the ‘burbs have been on a slow climb in clout. In 2016, Greater Minnesota made up 44.1 percent of votes compared to 43.7 in the suburbs. This year, again with a few straggling precincts and whatever comes in in the next week still out, Greater Minnesota represents 42.9 percent of votes cast in the presidential race compared to 45.0 percent of votes in the suburbs.

Share of votes by Minnesota region
Note: For the purposes of this chart, the Twin Cities suburbs include the seven-county metro area outside Minneapolis and St. Paul. Greater Minnesota is the 80 counties outside the seven-county metro.
Source: Minnesota Secretary of State

So far, Minneapolis and St. Paul together represent 12 percent of votes, consistent with their share in the past.

Of course, the increasingly large suburbs have been a boon for Democrats in recent elections but experts caution against believing that’s a long-term trend. Suburbs are notoriously swingy and it wasn’t long ago that Republicans were racking up more votes in the suburban Twin Cities than Democrats. Furthermore, as things stand, Republicans look to be winning back some of the state legislative seats they lost in the suburbs in recent years.