Election Day

Powering Democratic Gains: First-time Midterm Voters

A report from Edison Research Exit Polls for the National Election Pool

After any election, analysts and pundits debate the “narrative” created by who won and who lost.  For the 2018 midterm elections, there is a vital parallel story: The explosive increase in turnout over previous midterm elections.

The current count shows approximately 114 million people voted in this year’s midterms.  This compares to about 83 million people who voted in the 2014 elections.

In this year’s National Exit Polls we asked respondents if this was the “first time [they had] ever voted in a midterm election.”  Fully 16% of respondents said so.  This represents about 18 million people voting for the first time in a midterm election.  That’s about the same number of people who live in the state of New York – all voting for the first time in a midterm election.

This means that 60% of the boost in voting since 2014 came from first-time midterm voters (the remainder presumably having not voted in 2014 but in some previous midterm).

The first time midterm voters are extremely young – 47% of those who voted for the first time in a midterm are 18-29 years old; 36% are 18-24 – most of whom were not eligible to vote in 2014.

At the same time – fully 27% of these first-time midterm voters are 45 years old or older.

The first-time midterm voters tilted strongly to the Democrats.  While nationally 53% of the midterm electorate voted for the Democratic candidate in their House election, among the “first-timers” 62% chose the Democrat.  This means that nearly 20% of all of those who voted for Democrats around the country were first-time midterm voters.


Related to the race of this group – first-time midterm voters are significantly less white than the electorate as a whole – 46% of first-time midterm voters are non-white vs 28% of the electorate as a whole.

While the significance of the outcome of the elections can be debated, there can be little debate about their ‘success’ from a participation standpoint.  Many millions came to the polls for a midterm for the first time, and most anyone would interpret this level of engagement with a democracy as a good thing.


About Edison Research:
Edison Research (http://www.edisonresearch.com) conducts survey research and provides strategic information to a broad array of commercial clients, governments and NGOs, including AMC Theatres, The Brookings Institute, Disney, The Gates Foundation, Google, the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau, Oracle, Pandora, The Pew Research Center, Samsung, Spotify, SiriusXM Radio, and Univision Communications. Edison Research works with many of the largest American radio ownership groups, including Bonneville, Emmis, Entercom, and Radio One. Another specialty for Edison is its work for media companies throughout the world, conducting research in North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Since 2004, Edison Research has been the sole provider of Election Day data to the National Election Pool, conducting exit polls and collecting precinct vote returns to project and analyze results for every major presidential primary and general election.  Edison conducts more than 100,000 interviews in a single day for this project. For the 2018 and 2020 U.S. elections, Edison will provide exit polls and tabulate the national vote across every county in the United States for ABC News, CBS News, CNN, and NBC News.

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