• November 1, 2022

What Will Midterm Turnout Look Like?

Like other recent elections, the 2022 midterm could see healthy turnout. For government affairs teams that do GOTV work, here are some segments to watch.

With a week to go before the 2022 midterms, everything seems to be increasing: the pace of campaigns, the number of ads, the partisan rhetoric—and perhaps voter turnout as well.

While voter apathy was once a prime topic every time Americans went to the polls, the truth is that voting has increased dramatically in recent elections. The 2020 presidential race saw the highest turnout of the 21st Century, with 66.8 percent of the voting-age population—roughly 155 million people—casting a ballot, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Midterm elections, which generally attract less interest than presidential years, are also showing bigger numbers. Turnout reached 53 percent in 2018, the highest for a midterm in four decades.

It all points to a midterm that is likely to see healthy participation. For organizations that have spent recent weeks talking to their stakeholders about the election and encouraging voter registration, the final stretch is here and the rewards will be seen in the numbers. For government affairs teams that do GOTV work, this is a good time to remind advocates to follow through and vote on Nov. 8. If your team is watching turnout, here are some items to track.

Voting Segments to Watch

One way to look at the recent surge in turnout is through the lens of America’s minority communities, many of which have engaged like never before in recent elections and will be extremely consequential in the midterm.

For example, Latino Americans are the largest minority group in the U.S., representing almost one in every five people and more than 62 million in total. The 2020 election marked the highest level of Latino turnout in U.S. history, according to The New York Times. Latino turnout increased 31 percent, versus 16 percent for the overall electorate. Perhaps more important is that America’s Latino population is growing. The Latino population grew by 23 percent between 2010 and 2020, accounting for 51 percent of U.S. population growth during that period, according to the Census. Projections show the Latino population will rise another 79 percent by 2060.

One interesting thing about that population is that it is relatively young. Roughly 61 percent of America’s Latino population was 35 or younger in 2016, according to a Pew Research Center report in 2018. “Youth is a defining characteristic of the U.S. Latino population,” the report said. That means the number of Latinos eligible to vote is growing. The advocacy group VotoLatino estimates that 45 million Latinos will be of voting age in this year’s election. Though hardly a monolith—America’s Latino voters come from many different cultures and political persuasions—success by some Republican candidates in courting these voters ensures that turnout and party affiliation will be well watched next week.

Turnout among Black voters was 62.8 percent in 2020, up from 2016 but below levels in 2008 and 2012 when Barack Obama was on the ballot, according to The Brookings Institution. Turnout among Black voters will also be well watched this year because it is vital to Democrats. “Black voters could play an important role in determining the outcome of key 2022 midterm races,” the Pew Research Center wrote in a report this year. “Notably, Black Americans in Georgia account for a third of eligible voters and will cast ballots in a closely followed race that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.”

Other minority populations have also increased turnout. For example, voting among Asian Americans reached an all-time high of 59.7 percent in 2020, an impressive number mitigated only by the fact that Asian Americans, though a fast-growing segment, make up a relatively small portion of the U.S. population at about 6 percent.

However, despite all of the progress, research from the Brennan Center for Justice points out that there is still a substantial racial gap in America when it comes to turnout: 70.9 percent of white voters cast ballots in 2020 while the number among nonwhile voters was 58.4 percent.

How U.S. Voters Behave

Turnout is important because this year’s election will impact most government affairs teams, no matter who wins. It will decide which party controls the House and Senate, along with legislatures in 46 states and 36 gubernatorial seats. With that much at stake, it is hard to imagine an issue that won’t be impacted in some way. For those watching turnout, it helps to know what happened last time. Here are some trends identified by the Census Bureau in the 2020 election:

  • Women Vote More Than Men. In the last presidential contest, 68.4 percent of women cast a vote, compared to 65 percent of men. That’s a trend mirrored in previous elections.
  • Voting Increases With Age. Generally speaking, older voters do a better job of getting to the polls. The highest turnout rate, 76 percent, was seen among voters ages 65 to 74. The lowest rate, 51.4 percent, was seen among those ages 18 to 24.
  • Voting Increases With Education. The turnout rate for voters with a high school diploma was 55.5 percent. That increased to 77.9 percent among those who earned a bachelor’s degree.
  • Voting Increases With Income. Though it is not universal, those who make more money are often more likely to vote. For example, 63.6 percent of those making between $30,000 and $40,000 voted in 2020. But that increased to 81 percent among those making $100,000 to $150,000.
  • Veterans Vote. While the number of congressional candidates who served in the military is far from its historic high, veterans voted at a higher rate than nonveterans in 2020, 74.1 percent to 66.1 percent.

What about those who don’t vote? Among nonvoters, 17.6 percent—the biggest percentage—said they were simply not interested in the election. Others said they did not like the candidates or were too busy to vote. It remains to be seen what happens in this year’s midterms, but the state of play seems ripe for another high-turnout election. With inflation topping 8 percent, polls show that voters are focused heavily on the economy but also care about social issues such as abortion rights, gun control, and crime. All are issues that motivate certain segments of the electorate. This year’s primary contests, often famous for low turnout, saw an increase in voting, according to a preliminary analysis by CNN.

Of course, there’s also room for Americans to improve. While U.S. elections are watched all over the world, the United States is not at the top of the list when it comes to voter turnout, according to a study by the Council on Foreign Relations. Belgium, South Korea, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy and Spain all do a better job of getting citizens to vote. Even at 2020 levels, the U.S. ranks number nine.