The American Electorate: Some Conclusions, Based on Actual Votes

A reliable source estimates the total citizen voting age population in the United States at 239,247, 182.[1] Let’s call it about 239,247,000.

As of early afternoon, it appears that

  • about 92,218,000 of them did not vote (or, in the case of a small proportion of them, their votes have not yet been tabulated) (39 percent)
  • about 75,216,000 have voted for Biden (31 percent),
  • about 70,813,000 have voted for Trump (30 percent), and
  • about 2,442,000 voted for other candidates (1 percent).[2]

A Comparison with 2016

Trump received approximately 7,828,000 more votes in 2020 than he garnered in 2016.

Biden received about 4,959,000 more votes in 2020 than Hillary Clinton got in 2016.

In the 2016 popular vote, Clinton beat Trump by 2.1 points (48.2 to 46.1)—among those who actually voted.

As matters stand now, Biden is winning the popular vote by 2.9 points (50.6 to 47.7)—likewise, among those who actually voted.

Some Conclusions I Draw—Based, This Time, on Actual Votes

  1. An astonishing number of our fellow citizens choose to opt out of democracy.
  2. Trump strategy of stoking fear and spreading a firehose of pathological lies was crowned with partial success, in that he bested his 2016 performance by almost eight million votes. His increased voter support this year represents an increment of just over three percent of the voting eligible population.
  3. But Trump’s efforts to juice up a portion of the American population repelled another significant portion of voters. Hence, his loss.
  4. It is understandable that politically active folks of all persuasions might dream fever dreams of winning by somehow motivating even more of the inactive 39 percent to become active and choose their side. But, given the extraordinary events of the past four years, we have probably maxed out the percentage of our population that is going to participate in the electoral process.
  5. In sum, about four out of ten of us just opt out of democracy, and the remainder are pretty much equally divided. We may not like this situation. And we may draw very different implications from it, about how we should conduct the political process. But anyone who does not recognize this basic fact would be a disappointment to Sunzi. He would not know his side, and he would not know the enemy. 

[1] See this page of the U.S. Elections Project on why it’s better to use voting eligible population rather than data on registered voters to evaluate turnout.

[2] Percengages add to 101, due to rounding.