Demographic trends in the 2018 midterm elections

This year’s midterm elections saw the highest levels of voter turnout in at least half a century, where an estimated 49.2% of eligible voters (about 116 million people) showed up at the polls to cast a ballot, according to the U.S. Elections Project.

At least 41 states saw a double-digit percentage increase in voter turnout, compared to 2014. Texas saw the biggest percentage increase in voter turnout: 63% more people voted than in the last midterm elections. Exit polls suggest that the increase in voter turnout was led by a “blue wave”, where Democratic-leaning demographic groups who sometimes skip midterm elections showed up in strength.

Source: FiveThirtyEight
How did those who turned out vote? Pew Research Center reports that voting patterns likely differed by race, gender and educational attainment. Blacks overwhelmingly reported voting for the Democratic candidate (90%), whether the voters were men (88% of black men reported voting for the Democratic candidate) or women (92%).

On the other hand, gender differences were more apparent among white voters. White men reportedly voted Republican by a wide margin (60% to 39%), whereas white women were divided (49% favored the Democratic candidate and 49% supported Republican). In particular, white men without college degrees reportedly voted Republican by about two to one (66% to 32%).

The age divide in voting has also become increasingly important; a majority of voters aged 18 to 29 favored the Democratic candidate (67%), as did voters aged 30 to 44 (58%). Meanwhile, voters aged 45 and older were more divided (50% favored Republican, 49% favored Democratic candidates.

Source: Pew Research Center
Interestingly, the New York Times notes that exit polls give a broad sense of the electorate, but can be imprecise or inaccurate. Because voting is supposed to remain private and anonymous, asking voters is the only way to find out about how they voted and why. There are, in fact, multiple exit polls that are conducted by different groups that serve different purposes. The National Election Pool (NEP) made up of several news networks (CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox and AP) contracted with Edison Research, conducts one of the largest exit polls and releases data throughout election day. Some criticisms of exit polls include overestimating how big a share certain groups make up of the total electorate, and whether any poll can adequately capture the increasing share of voters who do not vote conventionally at voting stations on Election Day-- instead choosing other ways such as absentee voting and early voting.

Further reading:
Eunice Yau


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