Analyzing the 2018 Vote

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 5, 2018 — The Pew Research Center recently released a series of reports about the 2018 electoral patterns that allow us to better understand what happened in last month’s voting.

Clearly, the election produced mixed results: Republicans gained two seats in the Senate; Democrats reached near-wave proportions in the House; Democrats converted a net seven governorships, yet only scored new majorities in six legislative chambers and produced at least temporary redistricting control in just one state (Colorado).

But, why did these unusual results happen? The Pew findings provide us clues.

Among college-educated women, according to the Pew research, 59 percent voted Democratic for the House of Representatives as compared to only 39 percent choosing the respective Republican candidate. College-educated men broke 51-47 percent for the Republican congressional candidate. Compared to other years, college-educated women, who normally break Democratic, did so to a greater degree in 2018, whereas college-educated men failed to reach Republican margins typically found.

Therefore, Democratic strategists, who heavily weighted the highly educated segment believing a turnout surge within this sector would occur, proved correct.

Perhaps indicative of how the Republicans performed, the Pew study uncovered a segment of voters that showed that only 10 percent of Republican voters mentioned economic policies in explaining their vote motivation with only two percent citing the “good economy.”

Some interesting points were derived from minority voters. Perhaps the most surprising statistic was how strongly Asian voters preferred Democratic House candidates. Again, according to Pew, the Asian voters broke 77-23 percent for the respective Democratic candidate, which proved more prevalent in district than statewide results. Whites favored Republicans in a 54-44 percent split, while blacks brandished their habitual 90-9 percent Democratic preference.

Hispanic numbers again proved highly predictable. Usually, when Republicans hit 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in an election, they tend to win. Coming in below that percentage almost always spells defeat. Pew looked at key races in states where the Hispanic vote is a major coalition, and found the results holding true to form. In Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Gov. Greg Abbott (R) received 35 percent and 42 percent of the Hispanic vote, respectively, and both won. Turning to Florida, Sen.-Elect Rick Scott (R) and Gov.-Elect Ron DeSantis (R) scored 45 percent and 44 percent Hispanic preference, respectively, and both just barely won.

On the other hand, in Nevada and Arizona, Republican senatorial candidates pulled only 30 percent and 31 percent Hispanic support, and both lost with the unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidates in those states who turned in similar numbers leading to equally predictable results.

Ideologically, the party votes broke consistently with national political positions. In answering whether maintaining a US military advantage over other countries should be a top foreign policy priority, 70 percent Republican respondents agreed as compared to only 34 percent of Democrats.

Climate change is another area of stark partisan disagreement. Regarding whether dealing with climate change should be a top priority, 64 percent of Democrats agreed while only 22 percent of Republican survey respondents concurred.

The news media again proved a major point of contention between the two parties’ respondents. A total of 82 percent of surveyed Democrats agreed that media criticism of public officials keep them from doing things they shouldn’t, while only 38 percent of the self-identified Republicans shared the sentiment. As to whether the respondents believe that the media favors one ideological side or political party over the other, 86 percent of Republicans said they do, while that percentage dropped to 52 percent among Democrats.

Gun issue responses proved unsurprising as well. In answering whether an individual’s right to own a firearm must be protected, 76 percent of Republicans agreed as compared to only 19 percent of Democrats.

Religious preference also proved definitive in this election: 70 percent of evangelicals and 54 percent of Protestants supported the Republican candidate for the House. A total of 55 percent of Catholics and 87 percent of the Jewish respondents said they supported the Democratic candidate. Those professing to belong to other religions or describing themselves as unaffiliated voted for Democratic congressional candidates in greater than 70 percent proportions.

More will be learned about this election and its voting behavior over the coming months and some of the information will likely provide us greater insights as to how the next presidential election might break in 2020.

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