The 2018 midterm elections saw more than half of US citizens older than 18 vote, up 12 percentage points from the last midterm election to a historic 53% turnout, according to the US Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey released Tuesday
That was the highest number since the census began tracking midterm turnout in 1978, according to the new data, released as part of a voting and registration supplement to the Current Population Study.
Between exit poll results and official vote counts, the increase in turnout in 2018 has been apparent since election night. But the Current Population Survey data provide further details on what types of voters drove that increased turnout, and it could have a big influence on the way candidates and researchers approach 2020.
Driving the historic increase in turnout were those ages 18 to 29, who went from 20% participation in 2014 to 36% in 2018 – a 16 percentage point increase, the largest among the demographic breakdowns.
It’s generally decided now that the 2018 midterm elections did, in fact, bring a “blue wave” of Democratic victories as the party seized back control of the House. Part of that victory can be chalked up to the increased participation of young voters, who are continually among the demographics with the lowest voter turnout but tend to vote for Democrats when they do show up to the polls.
Other statistics from the census review also show the turnout numbers rising for groups that tend to lean Democratic.
Women voted in higher numbers than men, with 55% of women reporting participating in the midterms compared with 52% of men. Turnout among women went up 12 percentage points from 2014; men went up 11.
Among voters under 25, women turned out over men (33% to 27%), with increases in both groups, but more so young women over young men (up 16 percentage points versus 13).
White voters turned out in higher numbers than black, Asian or Hispanic voters, which is a consistent trend in midterm elections. But both Asian and Hispanic voters had a larger percentage increase in turnout from the last midterm election – an increase of 13 percentage points in turnout from 2014 to 2018. That’s a touch higher than the 12 point increase from whites or 11 points from black voters.
The smallest increases came from those with lower education levels. For example, only 27% of those with less than a high school diploma voted in the 2018 midterm, a 5 percentage point increase from 2014. Those who had anywhere from some college education to advanced degrees increased between 12 and 13 percentage points since the last midterm.
In 2018, those with high school degrees or less barely supported Republican candidates (51%) over Democrats, according to CNN’s exit polling. Those with bachelor’s degrees or higher were much more likely to support Democratic candidates.