To read a lot of the coverage of the 2018 election, you’d think the only shift of real significance in the election was the movement of suburban white college-educated voters voters toward the Democrats. This is just not true no matter how well it fits into pre-existing narratives about the election favored by the media.
The white college educated part of the standard view is definitely suspect. My analysis of Catalist data indicates that, while white college voters made a very significant contribution to the Democrats’ gains, white noncollege voters did as well. The split was roughly 2:1 between white college and white noncollege. And, as the Catalist data document, the Democrats also benefited from unusually high midterm turnout by nonwhite voters, particularly Hispanics and blacks.
Jack Metzgar, in a post on the Working Class Perspective blog, notes the following:
“[A]long with the dozen or so suburban districts they flipped, Dems also flipped at least 14 House districts that cannot be characterized as “suburban,” let alone “wealthy.” Nate Silver highlighted many of these as “Obama-Trump” districts because they went for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016. There were 21 such districts, mostly in Rust Belt states where there are large proportions of white working-class voters – including 6 in New York, 3 each in Iowa and Minnesota, 2 each in Illinois and New Jersey, and one each in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Democrats won 14 of them, and that is at least as important as the “wealthy suburban districts” D.C. pundits continue to focus on.
What’s more, even in the traditional Republican suburban districts The Post chose to highlight, wealthy voters were not obviously more flippy than middle-income voters in those districts; those with household incomes in the $50-75k range also “surged” for Dems in comparison to their Republican pasts. Two-thirds of suburban residents do not have bachelor’s degrees, and the largest group is middle income, not affluent, let alone wealthy.”
If the all-white-college angle is wrong, so is the all-suburbs, all-the-time focus of most coverage. G. Elliott Morris on The Crosstab takes particular aim at the almost-universal under-estimation of Democratic gains in rural areas (something I’ve posted about previously).
“We may have overlooked that, compared to 2016, House Democrats actually did better in rural areas in the 2018 midterms. We saw evidence this year that they’re beating expectations in “Middle America,” not lagging behind them.
Indeed…Democratic House candidates beat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance all over the map, but especially in rural areas. What is notable is that Democrats seem to have slightly bounced back — or “boomeranged” — in these areas that swung toward Trump between 2012 and 2016, but they did not lose significant ground in areas that swung toward Clinton in the same period.
In other words, Democrats may have expanded their coalition in rural areas in 2018 — reversing some (not nearly all!) of the polarization to the right that occurred in the region between Obama’s and Trump’s presidencies — without sacrificing gains they have made in recent cycles.”
To my mind, that’s a pretty important story and it’s a shame it’s getting lost as the conventional wisdom solidifies.