One of my favorite post-election analyses came out yesterday. For years, Democracy North Carolina has been breaking down who voted and who didn’t in the wake of elections. It’s a great service to political nerds like me and this year they’ve included some nifty interactive maps to boot.
Turnout in 2018 surpassed everyone’s expectations. People like me predicted a very low turnout election since we had no high profile races at the top of the ticket. Historically, these Blue Moon elections saw turnout in the low 40s. In 2018, 53% of registered voters showed up, about 10% higher than most people would have predicted a year ago. I suspect Donald Trump was the driver of that turnout despite not being on the ballot.
In terms of registration, Republicans still turned out at a higher rate than Democrats. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans voted while 55% of Democrats and 46% of unaffiliated voters did. That means about 254,000 more Democrats voted than Republicans. That means either a lot of Democrats, more than 15%, are still voting Republican, or unaffiliated voters broke Republican since Democrats accumulated about half the votes overall.
While they’ve improved, Democrats still have problems getting their base to the polls. African-American turnout was up 6% but still about 7% lower than the Democratic turnout overall. Hispanic turnout was also up by more than 15% but still almost 20% below the overall turnout. Younger voters followed the same trend. They increased their turnout substantially but were still far below the state as a whole.
So here’s the take away. People were more engaged politically than they’ve been for a long time and voting increased among every significant group. If Democrats turned out at same level as Republicans, they would win handily in statewide races and probably close the gap substantially in gerrymandered districts. Finally, if turnout was up when Trump wasn’t on the ballot, look for record turnout in 2020. If the Democrats can engage their base, they can pick up some the seats they’ve lost over the past decade.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >