[Image via census]

The U.S. Census Bureau yesterday released the first data from its 2018 Registration and Voting Supplement, which provides the first detailed look at how many Americans voted in the recent midterm election. The EAC’s David Kuennen takes a look at the agency’s blog:

Earlier [Tuesday], the U.S. Census Bureau released its key findings on voting and registration for the November 2018 general elections… The Census Bureau collects this data every two years following each federal general election through its Voting and Registration Supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS).

The survey asks respondents if they were registered to vote for the 2018 elections and, if so, whether or not they voted. For those who report not being registered or not voting, the survey seeks information on the reason, such as missing registration deadlines, permanent illness or disability, difficulty with English, or disinterest in politics. For those who report having voted, the survey asks how they did so, including in-person or by-mail, as well as on Election Day or beforehand. In addition to providing national- and state-level totals on these important questions, the data can be broken down by various demographic and other characteristics, such as age, race and Hispanic origin, marital status, employment status, veteran status, and annual family income.

Findings from the 2018 survey include:

  • Nationwide voter turnout for the 2018 midterms was 53.4 percent, an 11.5 percent increase from 2014.
  • Voter turnout rates were higher in the 2018 midterms than 2014 among all voting-age and major racial and ethnic groups.
  • Among 18- to 29-year-olds, voter turnout increased from 19.9 percent in 2014 to 35.6 percent in 2018, the largest percentage increase for any age group.
  • In 2018, 39.8 percent of voters cast a ballot using a method other than voting in person on Election Day (e.g. early in-person or by-mail), an increase of 8.7 percent from 2014, when 31.1 percent of voters used such methods.

Visit the Census Bureau’s website to see more findings and dig into this data further. For an even deeper dive into the Census Bureau’s historical voting and registration data, check out their 2016 report, Characteristics of Voters in the Presidential Election of 2016, which looks at the changing demographics of the voting population from 1980 to 2016, methods of voting, and why non-voters do not vote. As the report notes, “the estimates derived from [the Voting and Registration Supplement to the CPS] provide some of the most consistently reliable estimates of the social, economic, and demographic characteristics of American voters available to the public.”

Needless to say, this data is incredibly valuable to election officials, policy makers, and other election stakeholders who seek to better understand turnout, demographics of the voting and non-voting populations, voting participation methods, and the reasons why some people do not get registered and do not vote.

This data is also valuable to the EAC, as it provides detailed state-by-state data that complements and supports external validation for data collected through the EAC’s Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS). The EAVS is the agency’s biennial national survey that collects state- and jurisdiction-level data from nearly 6,500 local election jurisdictions across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. [NOTE: I am on the team at Fors Marsh Group that assists with EAVS – DMCj] The EAC is currently processing data collected through the 2018 survey and plans to release its 2018 EAVS comprehensive report and dataset by the end of June 2019.

This Census data is important to the overall picture of voting in 2018; while it isn’t as definitive on actual vote totals as reported election returns, it does give more detail on the levels of participation by different demographic groups as well as an initial sense of who didn’t vote, and why. Thanks to David for his summary – and I suspect you will see many more analyses of the data in the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned …