G.O.P. Led in Midterm Turnout, a Red Flag for Democrats in 2024


Even though Democrats held off a widely expected red wave in the 2022 midterm elections, Republican turnout was in fact stronger, and the party energized key demographic groups including women, Latinos and rural voters, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.

The report serves as a warning sign for Democrats ahead of the 2024 presidential election, with early polls pointing toward a possible rematch between President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump.

Though Democrats maintained control of the Senate, all but one of their governor’s mansions and only narrowly lost the House, the Pew data shows that a larger percentage of voters who supported Mr. Trump in 2020 cast ballots in November than those who backed Mr. Biden did. People who had voted in past elections but sat out 2022 were overwhelmingly Democrats.

And for all the Democratic emphasis on finding Republican voters who could be persuaded to buck their party in the Trump era, Pew found that a vast majority of voters stuck with the same party through the 2018, 2020 and 2022 elections. Just 6 percent of voters cast ballots for more than one party over those three elections — and those voters were more likely to be Democrats flipping to Republican candidates than Republicans to Democratic candidates.

“An eternal debate among political analysts after each election is what was a bigger factor in the outcome — persuading voters to switch their allegiance, or getting more of their core party loyalists to vote,” said Hannah Hartig, one of the authors of the Pew report.

Voters who cast a ballot in 2018 but skipped the 2022 midterms had favored Democrats by two to one in the 2018 election.

Democrats tried last year to energize these voters, seeking to inflate Mr. Trump’s profile and tie other Republicans to him. Mr. Biden coined the phrase “ultra-MAGA” to describe Republicans in an effort to engage Democratic voters.

In the end, what most likely drove Democrats to the polls was less about Mr. Biden’s actions than a broader reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Dan Sena, a former executive director of House Democrats’ campaign arm, said the Pew results suggested that the key to 2024 would be persuading independent and moderate Republican voters who dislike both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump to support Democrats. Abortion rights, he said, is the issue most likely to do so.

“There is a group of persuadable Republicans that the Democrats were able to win over,” Mr. Sena said. “Those voters align very closely with those who see choice and personal freedom on health care in alignment.”

Pew’s analysis is based on a panel of over 7,000 Americans whose attitudes and voting behavior the group has tracked through multiple election cycles. Pew also compared voters to state voting rolls to verify that they actually cast ballots in 2022. Taken together, this provides a portrait of the 2022 electorate.

In most midterm years, the party that is not in the White House fares well. And while Republicans enjoyed a turnout advantage in 2022, they nevertheless fell short of expectations and did not match Democrats’ turnout advantage in 2018, the first midterm election after Mr. Trump took office.

Still, midterm voters historically skew older and whiter than voters in presidential years, a phenomenon that tends to benefit Republicans. The 2018 midterms were, in many ways, the exception to that rule, with increased turnout across age groups, but especially among young people. The 2022 electorate was more in line with historical trends.

Much of the narrative around the 2022 election has centered on Democratic energy after the Supreme Court’s abortion decision. And while that played out in key governor’s races in states where abortion was on the ballot, nationally, Democrats appear to have lost ground with a crucial group: women.

In the 2018 election cycle, when increased activism — including the Women’s March — fueled record turnout among women, Democrats had an advantage of 18 percentage points. That edge shrunk to just three points in 2022, Pew found.

However, the study found that few women actually switched the party they were supporting. Instead, most of the drop for Democrats stemmed from the fact that Republican women voted at a higher rate than Democratic women.

Hispanic voters continued to support Democrats overall, but by a much smaller margin than four years earlier. In 2018, Democrats won 72 percent of Hispanic voters, but in 2022 they won only 60 percent. The decline began in 2020, when Democrats also won about 60 percent of Hispanic voters.

And Republicans also continued to increase their support from rural voters. The party made gains with them not only through increased turnout, but also among rural voters who had voted for Democrats in the past but cast ballots for Republicans in 2022.

“The Trump base continues to be motivated,” said Corry Bliss, a Republican strategist who ran the party’s House super PAC in 2018.

Yet, Mr. Bliss added, “In a handful of races that really matter, we had bad candidates, and in all the races that matter, we were dramatically outspent.”



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