Ready or not, the 2020 presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden is just about here.
If early voting turnout is any indication, this will be a monumental moment in our country's history, regardless of who wins the race.
Organizations and pundits have been offering predictions about their expected outcomes, so we figured we'd join in the fun. We're not experts in political science, and we don't pretend to be, so our analysis is solely based on something we know a lot about: average rent prices.
Apartment Guide did some research (you can find all the details in our methodology) and found a surprising correlation in the 2016 presidential election results and average state rent prices at the time, so we took the same trend and simulated it in 2020.
This is what happens in our scenario.
In the presidential election, candidates win electoral votes by winning the majority in any given state. Each state has a different number of electoral votes based on representation in Congress, which is determined by population. The first candidate to reach 270 electoral votes is the winner.
There are a few weird rules, such as in Maine and Nebraska, where electoral votes are split by the overall winners in each state, plus the winners of each congressional district, and there are a few scenarios in which neither candidate can reach 270, but we'll ignore those for now.
In 2016, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by winning 306 electoral votes compared to Clinton's 232. Trump won 30 states while Clinton took 21 states and Washington, D.C.
What's interesting to note here is how closely the election map above compares to the following map which shows states where the 2016 average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is above or below the national average — which was about $1,505 at that time.
Now, let's take a look at how the map would look if we're comparing average rent prices to the national average. To align with our analysis, we marked the states that are more affordable than the national average in red and the states that are more expensive in blue.
They look fairly similar, don't they?
Here are a few of the big takeaways:
At first glance, this connection isn't a surprise. A lot of the states where rent is more affordable are areas located in the middle of the country, which are Republican strongholds. States that tend to be more pricey are generally located on the west coast, New England and areas with big metropolitan centers (i.e., Illinois, Maryland, Colorado), which in 2016 leaned to the left.
Fast forward to today, and we see a similar breakdown of states when we look at the areas where rent is above or below the national average, which is $1,614 in 2020. Once again, states in red are more affordable than average while states in blue are more expensive.
Similar to 2016, there are 36 states that are more affordable and 15 states (plus D.C.) that are more expensive.
The only thing that's changed today is that New Hampshire is now more expensive than the national average and Oregon is more affordable. Our two states from 2016 with insufficient data (Vermont and West Virginia) now appear in the most affordable area.
If we follow our thought process that rent prices and election results are mutually inclusive, then President Trump will win reelection by an electoral vote of 323 to 215.
Of course, rent prices and election results are not mutually inclusive. Just as we saw in 2016, there will be certain states that vote against our trend. So, let's be hypothetical for a moment with a few possible scenarios to see if it changes anything.
As you'll recall, six states (Delaware, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire and New Mexico) voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, bucking the voting trend that we saw for all other states that were more affordable than the national average.
In 2020, New Hampshire is now more expensive than average, and it's not too far fetched to believe that the other five may also vote for Biden this year.
Assuming these six states go blue, President Trump still wins reelection by an electoral vote of 295 to 243.
You can't have an election without swing states!
We have five states where the average rent is within $100 above or below the national average. We are going to call these our "average rent swing states" because they're close enough that they could go either way. In 2016, we had three average rent swing states, and one (New Hampshire) voted against the trend.
|State||2020 Average Rent||Difference from National Average|
Yes, two of the states that may very well decide the 2020 presidential election in real life could play a major role in deciding the election by average rent prices.
Obviously, there's a lot that can happen with five swing states. Doing the math, it really doesn't change too much about the outcome:
If the election is decided solely on average rent prices, it appears that Donald Trump has the edge in most scenarios. Joe Biden would win if he carries the states that voted Democrat in 2016 AND wins Florida, Pennsylvania and at least two of the three remaining average rent swing states (Connecticut, Oregon and New Hampshire).
While there is a true correlation between the states that are more affordable in which to live and states that voted for Donald Trump in 2016, it likely will not be the determining factor in the election.
Affordable housing and the economy are major talking points for the candidates, but there's much more at stake this year, such as COVID-19, social issues, foreign relations, etc. We just noticed a trend in 2016 and wanted to see what it would look like this year. Our data does not support detailed analysis prior to 2016 so we were unable to draw historical comparisons from previous elections.
The bottom line is the election could go either way. Just make sure you do your part and vote.
Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com's multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments. We use a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets. Rent prices in 2016 reflect an average for the entire year. Rent prices in 2020 reflect a year-to-date average from January to October.
2016 election results are based on data sourced from the Associated Press via NPR.
2020 calculations are based on the current electoral vote counts.
The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.
The information in this article is intended to be educational and should not be viewed as an official prediction or endorsement from Apartment Guide.