Under the Surface of the GOP Win

In a column written for TPMCafe late last night after I had to junk my earlier take on the midterms, I noodled around with exit polls and discovered some interesting things. As noted in the last post, the overall shape of the electorate was a lot like 2010’s, which among other things means that the Bannock Street Project didn’t much work (actually, since it was confined to Senate battleground states, national exit polls aren’t a fair way to assess its impact, but looking at the Senate results alone doesn’t provide a much better impression).

The gender gap was actually bigger than in 2010 (and more like 2012), with men going Republican 56/42 and women going Democratic 52/47. But if you look at the numbers for white men and women, they are pretty much identical to those of 2012–as is, accordingly, the white vote overall.

What seems to have changed between 2012 and 2014 is (a) a small but significant increase in the white percentage of the electorate (from 72% to 75%), and (b) improvements in Republican performance among nonwhite voters.

Since Republicans as a whole did little or nothing to improve their image among nonwhite voters, you have to figure the midterm falloff was just higher among nonwhite voters who in 2012 voted Democratic (reinforcing that notion is the fact that Republicans did a lot better among minority voters in 2010 as well). Even among African-Americans, the target of highly visible voter suppression measures, the GOP percentage increased from 6% in 2012 to 10% in 2014. Among Latinos, the GOP vote share jumped from 27% to 35%. And most startling of all, among Asian-Americans Republicans improved from 26% in 2012 to 49% in 2014. Add all these numbers up, and they begin to matter. And it will be an interesting thought-experiment for Democrats to figure out if a return to presidential-level turnout will eliminate the GOP improvement, or we’re witnessing a return to pre-Obama divisions of opinion among minority voters. If the latter is the case, that’s a problem, because a return to pre-Obama levels of white support for Democrats doesn’t look real likely.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.