With most of the results of the midterm elections now counted and confirmed (with a few notable exceptions in Alaska and Virginia), we can now take a look at the exit polls and see what they actually mean. Before and during the election, plenty of speculation arose as to the composition of the turnout and which demographics may have contributed more to Republican success. The Washington Post looked at a comparison between 2012 and 2014 and discovered that all demographics shifted toward the GOP, especially Asian-American voters:
Based on preliminary exit poll data Tuesday night, we were able to say with some certainty how the 2014 electorate compared with 2012 and 2010. In short: It had more white, older voters — the sort of voters more likely to vote Republican.
As it turns out, the effect of that shift was multiplied by the fact that voters across the board were more likely to support Republicans than in past elections.
And when we say all, we mean all:
Support for Democrats was down slightly among black voters. In 2012, black voters backed the president by an 87-point margin; in 2010, black voters supported Democratic House candidates by 80 points, per exits. Last night, they backed Democrats by 79 points. Reduced support plus reduced turnout multiplies the effect for Republicans.
The electorate may have been slightly older and whiter than in 2012, but those changes aren’t as impactful as the overall shift to the GOP. Republicans picked up double-digit percentage gains in the 18-29YO demo and the Latino demo, and eight points among African-Americans. Asian-Americans moved significantly to the GOP over 2012, and even over 2010. Republicans even improved 10% among those earning under $50K, which should have Democrats very worried, and among women, independents, seniors, and so on.
However. Those gains came in comparison to a presidential cycle, and the differences in the natures of those cycles can account for at least some of those differences. The Post compares the exit poll results to 2010 in more of an apples-to-apples analysis, and the results should worry Republicans. The GOP made slight gains in 2014 over 201o among blacks, 18-29YOs, the middle class, and a large jump among Asian-Americans. They lost ground among women, Latinos, independents, seniors and 30-44YOs, and both working class and the wealthy. None of these declines went into double digits, but aside from the income demos, they all exceed the margin of error in the polling.
The good news for Republicans in 2016 is that Barack Obama won’t be on the ticket and will almost certainly decline to do much organizing on behalf of Democrats who want to follow him. The mission for the GOP in 2016 will be to consolidate the gains since 2012, certainly, but to reverse the declines from the previous midterm. Primary voters should look for candidates who can reach those voters and make sure that they come back into the big Republican tent, if they want to take the White House and keep the House and Senate.