The exit polls are in for this week’s midterm elections. If you’re a politics junkie, it can be fascinating to compare the breakdown of this year’s voters with previous years. Even if you aren’t a fan of statistics, it can be useful to look at who voted for who to help determine why the election turned out the way it did.
In this case, we can look back at previous exit polls to compare how well Republicans and Democrats did with various demographic groups. Since midterm elections have a different electorate from presidential elections, I looked at CNN’s exit polls from 2014 as well as 2016 to compare them with the new results from the 2018 midterms.
The most basic breakdown is between genders. In 2018, Republicans won 51 percent of male voters but lost female voters by a 19-point margin (40-59 percent). This was six points worse than the 2016’s 13-point gender gap and 15 points worse than 2014.
Democrats typically win younger voters and 2018 was no exception. The difference this year was that the Republican-leaning age groups were even older than normal. In 2014 and 2016, Republicans won majorities of age groups above 40-years-old while Democrats won all age groups younger than 40. In 2018, Democrats won all age groups younger than 50.
Margins were worse for Republicans in all age groups as well. Even though the GOP won all age groups older than 50 in 2018, the margin was only 1-2 points, a virtual tie.
When it comes to race, there was more bad news for Republicans. The GOP won just over half of white voters, 54 percent, and lost all other racial demographics by convincing margins. The share of white voters won by Republicans has declined from 60 percent in 2014 and 57 percent in 2016.
In the exit polls, minority voters are broken into three categories, black, Latino, and Asian. Again, the Republican share of these demographic groups has declined as well. The percentage of each group that voted Republican is listed below by year:
Black — 10 percent
Latino — 36 percent
Asian — 50 percent
Black — 8 percent
Latino — 28 percent
Asian — 27 percent
Black — 9 percent
Latino — 29 percent
Asian — 23 percent
Between 2014 and 2018, Republican support among blacks remained relatively constant at just less than 10 percent. Support among Latinos declined initially and then stabilized at slightly less than 30 percent. Support among Asians has been more than halved over four years.
In 2004, when President George W. Bush ran on immigration reform, the numbers for Latinos and Asians were considerably better than they are today. Although President Bush only garnered 11 percent of the black vote, he won 44 percent of the Latino vote and 44 percent of the Asian vote.
Interestingly, while the percentage of black and Asian voters in the electorate has remained relatively constant, the share of Latino voters has increased. From eight percent in both 2004 and 2014, Latinos increased to 11 percent in 2016 and 2018. Over the same time period, white voters decreased from 77 percent of the electorate to 71 percent.
Voting patterns have also changed with respect to education. In 2014, Democrats won voters without high school diplomas and voters with postgraduate degrees. Republicans won high school graduates and four-year college graduates. By 2016, most college graduates were voting Democrat. In the 2018 elections, voters who had not graduated high school and voters with associate degrees were the only categories won by Republicans.
By ideology, conservatives usually vote Republican and liberals usually vote Democrat. The share of conservative, liberal, and moderate voters has remained relatively constant over the past four years, but moderate voters have voted Democrat at an increasing rate. In 2014, moderates went Democrat by eight points. By 2016, the margin was 12 points and, this year, moderates selected Democrats by a whopping 26 points.
Low-income voters typically vote Democrat, but Republicans won voters who earned above $50,000 annually by double-digit margins in 2014. In 2016, Republicans eked out a victory in the $50-100,000 range by only three points. Voters who earned more split almost equally between the two parties. This year, Democrats won the $50-100,000 category while Republicans won voters who earned more than $100,000.
Republicans enlarged their Senate majority in 2018, but the party has lost support in every demographic group. Even white males, the GOP’s core demographic, has declined from 64 percent support in 2014 to 60 percent in 2018.
Much has been made of the Republican gender gap with 2018 being called the “year of the angry female college graduate.” This prediction turned out to be true with Republicans losing women by almost 20 points. Unfortunately, the Republican problem is not limited to women. The GOP also has an age gap, a race gap, an education gap, and an income gap. So far, all of these gaps are getting worse under President Trump.
[ Governor Sarah Palin exits a voting booth in Wasilla Town Hall on Election Day 2008. SarahPAC/Flickr]