Trump drives voting turnout on both sides
Data: Record 113 million Americans cast midterm ballots
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has inspired outrage, love, fear and every emotion in between. He has also inspired record-breaking turnout at the ballot box.
An estimated 113 million Americans cast ballots in the first nationwide election of the Trump presidency, according to data compiled by The Associated Press. That’s 30 million more people who participated in the 2014 midterms, representing the highest raw vote total for a non-presidential election in U.S. history and the highest overall voter participation rate in a midterm election in a half-century.
Democrats’ blue wave was real. But so was a corresponding surge in Republican enthusiasm that allowed the president’s party to counter the Democrats’ new House majority with big wins in top contests for the Senate and governorships.
“This election was about both Democrats and Republicans showing up,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political science professor who tracks voter turnout for the United States Elections Project.
Voter participation rates approached presidential levels in some states as even the most optimistic voting experts and political operatives underestimated Trump’s ability to drive voter turnout on both sides.
Democrats seized the House majority by flipping at least 28 seats nationwide. They could claim as many as 35 new seats once all the votes are counted, which could take weeks in some cases.
Analyzing 417 House races that featured at least two candidates on the ballot, the AP has determined that Democrats earned more than 51.4 million votes in competitive House races nationwide, or 52 percent, compared to 47.2 million votes cast, or 48 percent, for Republicans.
But both parties exceeded turnout expectations.
Voting experts noted that turnout exploded in states with big-ticket elections such as Florida, which featured high-profile races for Senate and governor, and those states with lower-profile contests such as North Carolina, which featured only judicial races on the statewide ballot. Voter participation rates jumped by around 10 points in both states.
In battleground Ohio, voting was up 42 percent compared to the 2014 midterm election.
The trend was similar in battleground Florida, where voting increased 33 percent over 2014. And in Texas, where Democratic superstar Beto O’Rourke narrowly lost his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, voting was up 92 percent as roughly 8.2 million people voted in 2018 compared to 4.7 million four years earlier.
“I thought it was very close to complete victory,” Trump said in a testy press conference Wednesday, suggesting that losing the House would improve his political fate.
Outside groups that pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the midterm season to engage young people and minorities cited evidence that their strategy worked.
Youth turnout, as defined by voters between 18 and 29, surged to a number not seen in a midterm election in a quarter century.
Overall, 31 percent of eligible young people cast ballots, according to an analysis by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.
In 2014, only an estimated 21 percent of young voters turned out.
“Trump drove turnout on both sides,” said Howard Wolfson, a chief aide to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spent more than $110 million to help Democrats this year. “There were Democrats who would have crawled over broken glass to vote against Republicans because of Trump.”
Participation in the midterms represents the highest raw vote total for a non-presidential election in U.S. history.