Midterm voter turnout hit a 40-year high of 49% in 2018, according to data from the Census Bureau. Turnout grew across all demographic groups, including age, race, and levels of education. The biggest increases came from youth voters and those with at least some college education.
Even with those increases, the groups with the highest turnout rates in 2018 were older, white, and more educated, following the usual midterm voting patterns.
Looking at the patterns in 2018 can provide some insight into the upcoming midterm elections this November.
This data comes from the Current Population Survey's Voting and Registration supplement. Using this data, the Census Bureau estimates voting rates by demographic groups. The Census Bureau numbers may differ from official voter counts if ballots are invalidated, respondents did not vote for every office, or due to survey misreporting. The estimates do not include American Indian and Alaskan Natives because the sample is not large enough to accurately measure this population.
Despite the historically high turnout, the midterm voting rate was still 7 percentage points lower than the 2016 presidential election and 12 percentage points lower than the 2020 presidential election.
Midterm elections tend to follow the same demographic voting patterns as presidential elections. Americans who are older, white, and college educated vote at the highest rates. These patterns are even more pronounced in the midterms.
The largest difference in voting rates is between those with at least a bachelor's degree and those who did not graduate from high school. About 64% of those with a bachelor’s degree voted in the 2018 midterm compared with 23% of those without a high school diploma, more than a 40 percentage point difference.
From 2014 to 2018, the turnout rate increased the most for those with a bachelor’s degree and some college or associate degree, both growing by 12 percentage points.
While turnout increased across demographics in 2018, young voters had the largest percentage point increase of any age group. Voters in the 24-44 age group also increased by 12 percentage points. Yet both groups still vote at lower rates than older age groups.
Maine, Wisconsin, and Montana had some of the highest turnout rates in both the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential election.
Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, the only states that used universal mail-in voting in 2018, had voting rates higher than the national average.
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