Election exit polls always tell important stories. This year, however, those stories may be especially important for what they can tell us about the 2020 race for president.
All of the votes from last Tuesday haven’t even been counted yet, but already people are turning their attention to the 2020 election.
Top experts say there are five key lessons we learned from this year’s elections:
Republicans have a big woman problem.
The GOP’s standing with female voters — who always cast a majority of ballots — is perilous and is getting worse, thanks to Donald Trump. Overall Democrats won the female vote by a 19-point margin. That is the biggest advantage for the Democrats, in midterms or in presidential elections, in at least ten years.
White women broke evenly this year after Obama lost white women by 7 points, and Hillary Clinton lost them by 9 points. This is especially troubling for Republicans.
The Latino Vote Has Not Changed
This year’s midterms saw Democrats making big gains among many constituencies, but Latino voters were not one of them.
Although the Democratic Party’s advantage with Hispanic voters was 40 points, it was only a two percentage point gain over the 2016 election when Trump lost Latinos to Clinton by 38 points.
Political pundits expected two years of Trump’s anti-immigrant presidency to cause even more deterioration in his support among Hispanics, but that has not happened.
Republicans did better in both the 2016 and 2018 elections than Mitt Romney did in 2012 when he lost Latinos to Obama by 44 points. This is a cause of worry among Democrats heading into the 2020 presidential contest.
This Year’s Turnout Is A Warning Sign to the GOP
Midterm elections historically benefit Republicans because of high turnout among older GOP voters. Always the turnout in midterms is older and whiter than in presidential years. And always that has benefited Republican candidates.
The ages of voters in this year’s midterms fit historical patterns but the outcome didn’t.
- Voters aged 65 and over cast 26 percent of all votes, whereas those under 30 cast only 13 percent.
- But despite this older electorate, the GOP lost the national vote in House elections by approximately six percentage points.
This is really bad news for Republicans since in a presidential year there will be many more younger voters headed to the polls. And they will be less friendly to Republicans than this year’s electorate.
Trump and Other Republicans May Be Saved By Non-college White Voters
Voters without college educations have been the key to Donald Trump’s political success. They played a huge role in his 2016 victory, and continue to make up the bulk of his support. These are the wildly enthusiastic people who attend his rallies and wear their red MAGA hats.
And these are the voters who showed up for the GOP in the midterms.
White voters without a college education made up 41 percent of all the ballots cast this year, a record high.
They made up just 34 percent in the 2016 election and jsut 36 percent in the previous midterms in 2014.
And they favored Republicans by a margin of 24 points.
Of course this gain for the GOP is offset by the fact that Democrats won college graduates by 20 points this year.
In 2008 Obama won college graduates by a margin of only 8 points.
But experts say that Democrats must not ignore Trump’s appeal to non-college whites if they want to win in 2020.
Older Voters Are Turning to the Democrats
Older voters are always the most reliable voters, with the highest turnout rates. And older voters have always been strongly Republican.
The GOP edge among over-65 voters was just two percentage points this year. Given the edge for Democrats among young voters, this could be a big problem for Republicans in 2020.
In the 2014 midterms the over-65 group voted for the GOP by a margin of 16 points. This is an unexpected deterioration that Republicans must deal with in 2020 in they want to win.
If the 2018 voting patterns of older voters appear also in 2020 it will spell doom for Trump and other GOP candidates.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.