The 2022 midterms are in the past — but trends from the last election could still prove decisive in the next one, and a new analysis of voter data from a Democratic data firm lays out several key paths to re-election for President Joe Biden.
The firm Catalist analyzed the midterm results based on individual-level turnout data from state voter files and combined it with election results, surveys and other sources to develop a detailed study of how different voter groups behaved in 2022.
Young voters in key states turned out in even higher numbers than their record-breaking 2018 midterm showing — and they backed Democrats just as strongly as in 2020.
That’s an important finding for Biden as he approaches a potential rematch with former President Donald Trump. While the president’s approval rating among young voters nosedived over the last two years, those voters still favored the Democratic Party over a Trump-dominated GOP in 2022.
Democrats’ biggest improvement in the key swing states compared to 2020 came among white women without college degrees, a group that had trended Republican in recent years but had misgivings about GOP plans on abortion rights after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.
The full report is available here. Here are three key takeaways:
Young voters turned out in force and broke for Democrats
Voters aged 18-29 voted for Democrats at a 65% clip in 2022, according to the Catalist report, three percentage points better than Biden's showing in the last presidential race. But young voters' turnout really stood out, even without Trump on the ballot.
Across almost every birth year, Gen Z and Millennial registered voters turned out in greater numbers in 2022 than in the anti-Trump backlash midterm of 2018, the data shows. Raw turnout wasn't nearly as high as in the 2020 presidential race, but the high rate compared to the last midterm suggests the emerging generation of young voters has established a strong habit of voting that's unlikely to change — and a strong, consistent antipathy toward the Trump-era GOP compared to the past.
Biden's approval rating among voters 18 to 34 years old stood at just 41% in the most recent NBC News poll. But Trump's ratings (24% favorable) were far lower among that group. That spread (and Democrats' consistent strong performance with young people in the Trump era) could help prop Biden up in a one-on-one rematch next year, if that comes to pass.
The GOP has gotten more competitive with Latino voters, but Dems maintained their edge
The Catalist data also says, contra the 2022 exit polls, that Democrats’ share of the Latino vote held steady last year compared to 2020, arresting the party’s slide among Latinos across the previous three elections.
Democrats' large advantage among Latino voters shrank in successive elections from 2016 to 2020, previous Catalist reports have detailed. This time, things were different — especially outside Florida.
GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio won majorities of the Cuban-heavy Latino vote in Florida in 2022, but in other key states, Democratic support held steady. That likely made the difference in razor-close Democratic victories for Nevada Senate and the Arizona governor's race, among others.
One racial group that did see a big shift against Democrats: Asian American and Pacific Islander voters. The fast-growing AAPI vote dropped from 66% support for Democrats in 2020 to 60% in 2022.
Voters turned out and voted in different patterns in the biggest battleground states
Catalist broke down its analysis by states and districts rated as "tossup" or "lean" ahead of the election by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Those places where the campaign was fiercest turned up some notable patterns.
One of them was Democrats' 4-point improvement among white women without college degrees compared to the 2020 presidential race. (In the country overall, that group stayed neutral compared to 2020.)
In other words, in places with the most campaign activity — and a great deal of Democrats' 2022 campaign activity centered around abortion rights — the party clawed back gains among a group of voters who have slid away from Democrats in recent years.
There are few signs that abortion is fading as a key issue for voters ahead of 2024. And the 2022 midterm battlefield tracked very closely with the states that will be at the center of the battle for electoral votes next year, too.