U.S. President Donald Trump wasn’t on the ballot, but he may well have spurred American voters out of their midterm slump.
Voter turnout this year is likely to set records for a midterm election, beating the 2014 midterm turnout, which was the lowest in 72 years, according to the Elections Project done by University of Florida associate professor Michael McDonald.
Per the results of AP VoteCast, a national survey of voters, nearly 40 per cent turned out to the polls to express their opposition to the president, while roughly 25 per cent turned out in an effort to support him. That’s not surprising given national politics have become much more of a guiding force for local voters, says Randy Besco, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto. Still, he notes, if national politics were boring, turnout would likely be lower.
“Clearly turnout is high because people are upset about Donald Trump. People view this as a really important election because of all the controversial things he’s done.”
Typically, midterms don’t generate the same volume of voters as presidential elections. But the 2018 race – two years into Trump’s presidency and repeatedly posited as an indicator of how satisfied Americans are with their president – has been breaking records.
Over 31.5 million early voter ballots were cast in the midterms. Early voter turnout doubled in at least eight states, including Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.
In Texas, more people have voted early so far than the total number of people who voted in the state’s last midterm election in 2014. Nearly 4.9 million people have voted in the state’s 30 largest counties, compared to 4.7 million who voted in 2014, according to data from the secretary of state’s office.
“This looks more like a presidential election than a midterm election,” Besco says.
Still, he rejects claims the election turnout is historic. Typically, the midterms have seen surges of support for the party that didn’t win the presidency.
“The Democrats are going to do pretty well, but its not like this is some crazy outlier that has never happened before.”
So how exactly do the 2018 midterm voter numbers stack up against past midterms?
While exact figures have yet to be released, the indication from many election officials is that turnout is up. In Maine, the top election official in Maine said he believes turnout will exceed the 2014 midterm turnout and in Minnesota, turnout was reportedly quite strong.
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Who turns out to vote – women, men, young people, minorities – has also shifted over the years, per a 2015 report from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Historically, the report found, the rate at which people turn out to vote depends on their demographics. Some of the most significant changes from 1978 to 2014 include the white vote dropping from 50.6 per cent to 45.8 per cent and the Hispanic vote dropping from 35.7 per cent to 27 per cent.
AP VoteCast surveyed 115,936 voters and 22,016 nonvoters across the United States for the 2018 race. While AP didn’t provide a demographic breakdown of those surveyed, it did indicate how thousands of people voted.
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It found that six in 10 women voted for the Democrat candidate and four for the Republican candidate, while men were more evenly split.
There was a similar urban-rural split. Those living in urban centres voted nearly two to one for a Democrat while those in smaller towns and rural areas leaned, albeit by a smaller margin, toward the Republican party.
Per VoteCast, non-white voters picked Democrats by a roughly three to one margin.
– with files from The Associated Press