Midterm Voter Turnout Was Much Higher Than Expected
Preliminary figures indicate that voter turnout in the 2018 midterms was higher than it has been for any midterm election in fifty-two years.
Voter turnout in the just-concluded midterm elections was up significantly, and we can apparently thank Donald Trump for that:
Election Day predictions of HUGE voter turnout are as old as Election Day itself.
There’s always a slew of stories, tweets and videos about really long lines at some local precinct where no one has ever seen lines like these before. And then, usually, the voter turnout nationally turns out to be nothing special or out of the ordinary: Percentages are in the high 30s or low 40s of the voting eligible population in a midterm elections year and the low 60s in a presidential year.
Except this year!
Turnout in the 2018 midterms was 49.3% of the voting eligible population, according to projections made by the United States Election Project. If it holds, that’s remarkable — and record-breaking.
In fact, according to stats maintained by Fair Vote, the 2018 turnout would be the highest midterms turnout in more than 100 years. The only close competitor was 1966, when 48.7% of the voting eligible population actually voted.
Perhaps the most amazing part of the turnout surge is where it came from as compared to 2014, when just 36.7% of the eligible population voted — a 70-year low.
What explains the difference? It’s hard not to ascribe it to Donald Trump, who wasn’t president in 2014, but is in 2018. Yes there are other contributing factors, but Trump is absolutely a turnout driver — for both parties. According to the 2018 exit poll, 67% of voters said Trump was a factor in their vote, with almost four in 10 saying they saw their vote as a way to send a message of opposition to the President.
It’s also being reported that Democrats nationwide received nearly as many votes in the 2018 midterms as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump did individually in the 2016 Presidential election:
According to the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, the Dem popular vote advantage is now a full 8 points, 53.1 percent to 45.1 percent.
Indeed, Dems are getting close to 60 million votes. In 2008, John McCain got 60 million votes; Mitt Romney got 61 million in 2012; and Trump got 63 million in 2016. It’s stunning that Dems got as many House votes as the GOP presidential nominees in 2008/2012/2016
Actually, I’m not quite as surprised by these numbers as some of the national pundits are. Yes, voter turnout near 50% is extraordinary for a midterm election, but there are several factors arguably unique to 2018 that made this possible. First of all, it’s worth noting that several of the most high-profile races in the country — including the Texas Senate race between Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz, the Florida Governor’s race between Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum, and the Florida Senate race between Bill Nelson and Rick Scott — took place in some of the most heavily populated states in the country. Other heavily populated states, such as California and New York, had competitive races of their own at the statewide and Congressional level that likely helped to increase voter turnout. While we have yet to see voter turnout level at the state level, it’s likely that turnout was up significantly in these states thanks to the fact that these races were on the ballot.
All that being said, it’s hard to discount the reality that much of the turnout was motivated by the public reaction to President Trump, and that most of those people voting with Trump in mind were doing so based on disdain for the President and the desire to send a message to him and to Congressional Republicans. As has been the case since he first took office, President Trump remains one of the least popular Presidents since the end of the Second WorldWar. Given that, it isn’t surprising that large numbers of people were motivated by the desire to vote against the President and his party notwithstanding the fact that the President is not on the ballot. This became especially true once President Trump started telling his supporters that he really was on the ballot. While this was obviously meant to motivate Republicans, who remain highly supportive of the President, to get out to the polls despite the fact that the forecast looked grim, it’s just as likely that this helped Democrats who spent the better part of the year trying to make the election about the President.