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Did racist new voting laws work? Black voting down in ’22 midterm races

By Lee Cleveland - July 22, 2023

The 2022 midterm elections witnessed a notable decrease in voter turnout, dropping from the record high of 50 percent in 2018 to 46.6 percent.

Recent census data suggests that the decline was primarily concentrated among Black voters, younger voters, and college graduates.

Examining the statistics, it becomes evident that Black voter turnout experienced a significant decrease, falling nearly 10 percentage points from 51.7 percent in 2018 to 42 percent in 2022. In comparison, White voter turnout only slipped by 1.5 points to 53.4 percent.

This 11-point gap in turnout between White and Black voters is the largest observed in any presidential or midterm election since at least 2000.

In fact, one operative, in response to the numbers said bluntly that this is “how we lose in 2024.”

Hispanic voter turnout also experienced a decline, dropping by 5.4 points to 31 percent, while Asian and Pacific Islander voter turnout decreased by 5.5 points to 33 percent. Nonetheless, turnout among both groups remained considerably higher than in midterm elections prior to 2018. Turnout among American Indian and Alaska Native voters dipped by 2.1 points to 32 percent.

The decline in Black voter turnout may have had consequences for Democratic candidates in some of the midterm contests.

According to Michael McDonald, an Associate Professor at the University of Florida and an expert on voter turnout, the lower-than-expected turnout in Milwaukee likely cost the Democrats the Wisconsin Senate seat and may have impacted the competitiveness of other races, such as in Florida.

Nevada serves as a fine example of why Black voters are so critical for Democratic candidates.

Only 9 percent of the state’s electorate is Black so it’s easy to overlook their relevance. However, because Blacks, as a racial demographic, are so overwhelmingly pro-Democratic, healthy Black voter turnout can make or break close races in that state.

Despite the decline in Black voter turnout, Black voters played a crucial role in re-electing Senator Raphael Warnock to a full six-year term in Georgia. Network exit polls showed that over 90 percent of Black voters supported the Democrat.

Apart from the decline in Black turnout, there was also a significant drop among voters under the age of 30. Turnout in this demographic fell from 32 percent in 2018 to 26 percent in 2022, representing a 6.5-point decrease. However, it is worth noting that turnout among young voters was still significantly higher than in any midterm election from 2002 to 2014.

Additionally, there was a decline in turnout among voters in their 30s and 40s, while voters in their 50s experienced a less pronounced dip. Interestingly, a majority of seniors, 65 percent, cast their ballots in 2022, a decrease of less than one point compared to 2018.

Historically, Americans with higher levels of formal education tend to vote at higher rates. However, the 2022 midterm elections saw a more pronounced drop in turnout among college graduates. Analysis by The Washington Post indicates that turnout decreased by 5.7 points among those with bachelor’s degrees and by 5.8 points among individuals with postgraduate degrees.

Additionally, those with some college education witnessed a 5-point decline in turnout. Turnout was lowest among those with a high school education or less, at 32 percent, but this marked a smaller 2.7-point drop from four years earlier.

The decrease in college-educated voter turnout was observed across racial and ethnic lines, with Black college graduates experiencing a particularly significant decline. Their turnout dropped from 73 percent in 2018 to 60 percent in 2022. Hispanic college graduates also saw a nine-point drop to 53 percent, while White college graduates experienced a four-point decline to 70 percent.

The Census turnout survey revealed that women voted at a slightly higher rate than men (48 percent vs. 46 percent), but turnout among women was down by 4.7 points from four years before, compared with a smaller 2.8-point drop among men.