The first participation in mid-2022 was higher than in 2018. What does this mean for November?


About 80% of the states that held primaries this year have turnout data that we can compare to midterm primaries since 2010 to detect some interesting trends among voters: One is good for Republicans. One is good for Democrats. And one is good for democracy.

No matter how you slice or dice the data, the majority of people across the country who voted in primaries this year either chose to vote Republican or voted for a Republican candidate (in the case of two-party primary systems in states like California and Washington. ). From 2018 there was a big change.

In my analysis, I first looked at whether the state board of elections or its secretary of state disclosed the number of people who chose a party’s primary ballot. If that wasn’t available, I looked at the statewide race with the most votes in the Democratic or Republican primaries. And if that wasn’t available, I counted the number of statewide votes for the US House of Representatives, which was only used if there was a race on the ballot in every state district.

If none of this data was available for 2018 or 2022, I did not include those states. This meant that the following states were not part of my analysis: Alaska (which changed its primary system this cycle), Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota (there were no statewide Democratic races in 2022), Utah or Virginia. The combined primary voters in those states voted roughly along the nation’s lines.

Using my method, 53% of people voted in the Republican primary this year, compared to 47% who voted in the Democratic primary in the 40 states I studied. Without rounding, GOP turnout outpaced Democratic turnout by about 5 points.

This compares to 2018, when 53% of voters voted in the Democratic primary, and 47% voted in the Republican primary. That was enough to give the Democrats a 6-point lead.

This year is closer to the 2010 and 2014 primaries, where Republicans led Democrats by 10 points and 9 points, respectively. (Note: Not all Connecticut statewide data was available for 2014, but the state is not populated enough to change the analysis.)

While the partisan makeup of this year’s primary voters isn’t as Republican as 2010 or 2014, it still represents a midterm election in which the GOP has a slight advantage nationally. Since 2010, the partisan composition of midterm primary voters has been 3 points more Republican than their margin in the National House vote. Given that Republicans have a 5-point lead among primary voters this year, that would equate to winning the National House vote by 2 points.

This is also consistent with what we are seeing more broadly in national polls. Republicans are clearly not doing as badly as they were in 2018. But they are not doing as well as they did in 2010 or 2014.

Democrats charged the abortion issue

There is one notable state where Democrats have a significantly larger share of the electorate this year than they did four years ago: Kansas. That’s important because there was a measure on the ballot whose sponsors’ ultimate goal was to limit abortion in the Sunflower State.
Trend Four: Democrats are doing much better in special elections since Roe was overturned

Democrats accounted for 38% of partisan primary voters in 2022, up from 33% in 2018. The percentage of Republicans fell from 67% to 62%, which meant that the GOP margin in Kansas was 10 points worse this year than in 2018. 11 points better for Republicans. The difference in Kansas was entirely due to an increase in Democratic primary participation, which was up 85% from 2018 and outpaced the 50% increase for Republicans.

This is what you might expect, as national polls have shown that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say abortion is a top issue. No other primary saw nearly as much increase in Democratic turnout in Kansas.

Exactly what this means for November is unclear. Most Americans will not vote in a state with an abortion measure on the ballot.

Perhaps a better indicator is the June 24 decision of the US Supreme Court in Roe v. Examining all states that voted in primaries after Wade was overturned, eliminating the federal constitutional right to abortion. And that picture isn’t nearly as good for Democrats as it is in Kansas. The turnout margin was a 7-point change from 2018 in favor of PG in states that held primaries in July, August and September.

That’s still better, however, than the 12-point swing from the GOP in states that voted before Roe was overturned.

That data would suggest that repealing Roe was helpful in unseating Democrats, though not to the extent we saw in Kansas.

Even without Trump in the White House, turnout soared

Former President Donald Trump changed policy from the first moment he stepped off that escalator at Trump Tower in June 2015. He charged voters on both sides of the aisle. Therefore, without him in the White House, you can expect this strong interest in politics to wane.

He hasn’t had

While we await official turnout figures for the final primary this month, it will be higher than any midterm turnout since at least 2010. Nearly 42 million people voted in the 40 states I looked at in either a Democratic or Republican primary this year.

Trump is back in the headlines, and it may cost Republicans in November

That’s more than the 40 million who voted in those states four years ago. This is higher than the 33 million who voted in these states in 2010 and much higher than the 27 million who voted in 2014.

This was because many Republicans were encouraged to vote this year. GOP turnout was nearly 22 million, up 3 million from 2018. On the Democratic side, almost 20 million voters participated in the primaries, about 1.5 million less than in 2018. (This year’s Democratic figure, however, still exceeds the number of 2010 and 2014). the main stake is 5 million and 7 million, respectively).

What does this mean for November? The much higher turnout in the 2018 primaries compared to 2010 and 2014 heralded the highest midterm general election turnout in a century (50% of all eligible Americans), as opposition to Trump brought large numbers of voters to the polls. Likewise, the lowest turnout in the 2014 primaries (37%) heralded the lowest midterm turnout in a general election since World War II. Turnout in 2010 was in the middle, with 41% of Americans voting in that fall.

We cannot say for sure if higher primary participation in 2022 will mean November participation will be higher than in 2018.

But consider:

  • This year’s poll suggests voters are generally as enthusiastic as they were four years ago.
  • Even without Trump as president, he is still heavily involved in our politics.
  • Unlike four years ago, the issue of abortion is much more in the public consciousness.

There’s a lot to decide when voters go to the polls in less than two months. But one thing is certain: voter engagement should be high.