Washington

Midterm Turnout Looks Primed to Reach Historic Levels Again

More men, independents are certain they’ll vote in November compared with 2018

Photograph of sign reading
Voters in Lansing, Mich., wait for a polling location to open so they can cast their ballots in the state's Aug. 2 primary elections. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

The 2018 midterm elections set a historic precedent for turnout in the modern era, and a comparison of Morning Consult survey data suggests 2022 will be no different. Which party that will benefit is unclear, though Democratic voters are slightly less definitive about their plans than their Republican counterparts.

Political Intelligence
More Independents, Whites Are Certain They’ll Vote This Year Than in 2018

Shares of voters who say they “definitely will vote” in November, compared with shares who in 2018 said they were “absolutely certain to vote”

Surveys conducted Oct. 5-7, 2018, and Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 2022, among representative samples of 12,356 and 2,005 registered voters, respectively, with unweighted margins of error of up to +/-2 percentage points.

Who says they’re certain to vote in November

  • Surveys show that one month out from the midterm elections, the share of voters who said they “definitely will vote” matches the share who said at a similar point in 2018 they were “absolutely certain” to vote. Democratic voters are slightly less likely to pledge their participation, whereas independents are more determined to show up and Republicans roughly match their certainty from four years ago.
  • Men are expressing more certainty that they will cast their ballots this year than they were four years ago, while Republican women (73%) are more likely than Democratic (64%) or independent women (52%) to say they’ll definitely vote.
  • College-educated voters, particularly those with postgraduate degrees, are less likely to be certain about voting than they were in 2018. Similarly, nonwhite voters — be they Black, Hispanic, Asian, or another race or ethnicity — are less likely to guarantee their participation this fall than white voters.
  • America’s youngest voters, who showed up in record numbers in 2018, say they are just as sure about their plans to vote now as they were then. However, their certainty is far outpaced by voters 65 and older, who also expressed similar levels of commitment compared with four years ago.

About the surveys and identifying highly likely voters

Voters are humans, and just because a human says today they’re certain to do something in the future doesn’t mean they’ll actually do it. That’s even more true the further out from Election Day the survey is conducted. In 2018, for example, voters’ professed likelihood of casting a ballot outpaced the final participation tally by double digits.

The scales used in the two surveys to assess voters’ eagerness to participate in the electoral process were slightly different: The 2018 survey asked voters to gauge their likelihood of participation using a 5-point scale, with 5 being “absolutely certain” to vote, while in the latest survey a 10-point scale was used, with 10 meaning “definitely will vote.”

Nevertheless, the high numbers back then foretold eagerness to vote on both sides of the aisle, which helped Democrats win back the House in America’s suburban communities and Republicans hold the Senate by gaining ground in states that at the least leaned conservative. Taken together, the two surveys suggest the public may be as eager to weigh in on the first two years of Joe Biden’s presidency as they were to do so at Donald Trump’s tumultuous halfway point four years ago.

 

What voters’ expressions of certainty mean

  • The Republican advantage on the likelihood of participation question is in line with historical precedent, where the out-of-power party is more motivated to show up in a midterm election. But other surveys have shown that Democrats have an enthusiasm advantage over the GOP, implying the figures could change over the coming weeks.
  • The energy among young voters could help mitigate expected losses for the party in power, but it is not clear who might benefit from the surge in certainty among independent voters this time around, given their dim views of Biden and even division on the generic congressional ballot.
  • The lesser certainty among voters of color and higher-educated people might also be a boon for Republicans, given that so much of Democrats’ support comes from those groups.

The latest Morning Consult survey was conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,005 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.