2018 Midterms a Voter-Turnout Bonanza, Census Bureau Finds

Voters use electronic voting devices at the Centerpoint Plaza in Aurora, Colorado, on Nov. 6, 2018. (Amanda Pampuro/CNS)

(CN) – The 2018 midterm elections this past November saw the highest voter turnout in a century, according to a report released by the Census Bureau.

The high-water mark of 53.4% of citizens of voting age casting ballots came four years after the lowest turnout in the last four decades, when only 41.9% of eligible voters went to the polls in 2014.

Turnout in 2018 increased dramatically for almost every demographic group, whether racial, ethnic or age-based. The most significant spike occurred for voters aged 18-29, who went from a 20% turnout in 2014 to a 36% turnout in 2018 – a 79% jump.

Young voters typically stay away from the polls in years without a presidential election. But 2018 was different, perhaps driven by a divided country and the saturation of political discourse.

The percentage of young people who voted surpassed any of the midterms in the 21st century and exceeded the total of any midterm election since the 1980s.

Voters aged 30-49 also saw a large increase in turnout, from 36 percent in 2014 to 49 percent in 2018.

While still significantly lower than turnout for older Americans, the presence of younger voters unquestionably helped the Democrats pick up enough seats to take back the House of Representatives.

Racial minorities also went to the polls at higher rates in 2018.

Turnout for black voters rose 11%. For Asians and Latino voters – two groups with historically low turnouts – a 13 percentage point spike occurred between 2014 and 2018.

All three groups trailed behind white voters, 58% of whom voted last year. That figure represents a 12-point increase from 2014 and the highest turnout in 40 years.

The 2018 midterms bucked another trend relating to the urban-rural divide, which continues to be one of the most prevalent fault lines in U.S. politics.

While rural voters turned out at a higher percentage than their counterparts during the 2014 midterm election, they were outpaced by urban voters in 2018. Voter turnout for city dwellers rose 12 points over 2014, compared to an 8-point rise in turnout for rural voters.

Another line in the sand for party affiliation and voter turnout is education. In 2018, 54% of college graduates voted – a 13-point increase from 2014. More voters with a high school diploma or equivalent also turned out to vote, though their 42% turnout was only an 8-point jump from 2014.

Those who did not finish high school only saw a 5-point rise in turnout, by far the smallest increase of any demographic group.

The largest increases were in demographic groups that favor Democrats, further accounting for what become known as the “blue wave.” Approximately 6 in 10 college graduates favored Democratic candidates, and the proportions were even more skewed in favor of blue candidates among Hispanic and Asian voters.

Evidence suggests that the primary motivational factor driving record turnout was President Donald Trump, setting the stage for what could be yet another record-busting election in 2020.  

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