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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

How Educated Whites May Influence Midterm Elections

From “How the Electorate Changes from Presidential to Midterm Years: A higher share of white college graduates could help Democrats, but a decline in nonwhite voters could hurt themal Ball:” by Lakshya Jain at Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

— Midterm electorates are typically whiter and more educated than presidential electorates.

— At one time, this sort of change from the presidential to the midterm electorate might have made midterm electorates worse for Democrats. But given changes in the electorate, this midterm turnout pattern may actually aid Democrats, or at least not hurt them as much as it once did.

— Minority turnout has fluctuated and is a wild card that plays a big role in determining baseline partisan leans and advantages — presidential-level turnout means Democrats enjoy the advantage, whereas dips favor Republicans.

— The outcome in key swing states whiter than the national average, such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire, may be influenced heavily by educational turnout differential. In states with large nonwhite cores, such as North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada, minority turnout will play a more critical role.

Jain provides several interesting charts, including this one:

Figure 1: Demographics of key 2022 Senate states

Jain notes further:

Above, we show the demographic splits for several key swing states with contested Senate elections in 2022, sorted from left to right in order of the white population share per state, with the U.S. national average provided for comparison’s sake. These are the seven races that the Crystal Ballrates as either Toss-ups or just leaning one way or the other: Republicans are defending North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, while Democrats are defending Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire.

In states with lower minority populations, it is likely that the previously-noted Democratic educational advantage among whites is magnified, and that the degree of influence minority turnout has upon the electorate is relatively blunted. This may be the case in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, all of which are significantly whiter than the nation as a whole. Extrapolating from past electora

tes, Democrats may begin with an electorate that is anywhere between 1-3 points more favorable than 2020 in terms of presidential lean in these states. For instance, New Hampshire, which was Biden +7.2 in 2020, could see a Biden +9 electorate, given that state’s exceptionally large share of white voters.

In contrast, Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina, and Georgia all have significant blocs of nonwhite voters, and it is here that the outcome of the Senate races may rely more heavily than usual on the turnout of minority groups. Arizona and Nevada, in particular, have heavy concentrations of Hispanic voters, while Georgia and North Carolina have high Black populations. If Democrats replicate their 2018 minority turnout operations in these states, they would go a long way towards avoiding another 2014-esque red wave; however, if those turnout efforts fall short, these states would become prime pickup material for Republicans.

Jain concludes:

From the analysis, we can see that midterm electorates, in general, have higher levels of four-year college attainment than the presidential electorates, which might actually help Democrats given their recent improvements with these voters. However, the volatility of minority turnout in non-presidential elections makes the overall midterm turnout advantage unclear. If nonwhite turnout stays at presidential levels, it is likely that Democrats begin with an electorate whose baseline presidential lean is more Biden-voting (in terms of 2020 presidential vote cast) than in the 2020 electorate itself, whereas if it dips in the way it did in 2014, Republicans would be advantaged on the whole.

Determining which of the pictures is more likely between 2014 and 2018 is a tall order, especially given the amount of time to go until the 2022 environment. However, whatever happens, it is clear that the midterm and presidential electorates are likely to vary significantly in composition — it is just the areas in which the change is greatest that will play a large role in deciding the electorate’s baseline lean in 2022.

While most pundits say Republicans will likely win a House majority in the 2022 midterm elections and they have a good chance in the senate as well, it’s clear that Democrats best strategy is investing resources in mobilizing turnout of nonwhite voters and educated whites.

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