Survey | 2014 Post-Election American Values Survey: What Motivated Voters During the Midterm Elections?
Voter Preferences and Outcome of the Midterm Election: The 2014 Vote
More Americans voted early in 2014 than in 2010. In 2010, 30% of midterm voters said they voted early, while 70% cast their ballot on Election Day. This year, 35% of Americans say they voted early, while 65% report voting on Election Day.
Non-white Americans and residents of the South and West were more likely to vote early than other Americans. More than 4-in-10 (41%) non-white Americans say they cast their ballot before Election Day, compared to only about one-third (32%) of white Americans. A majority (55%) of Westerners and 42% of Southerners report voting early compared to 22% of Midwesterners and 11% of Northeasterners.
There are no significant differences in early voting patterns between voters who supported Democratic candidates and those who supported Republican candidates.
The Timing of Voting Decisions
On average, voters supporting Republican candidates in the midterm election made their voting decisions much earlier than voters who supported Democratic candidates. A majority (52%) of Republican voters say they decided how they would vote in the six months before Election Day or even earlier, compared to 39% of Democratic voters. In contrast, roughly 1-in-3 (31%) Democratic voters say their voting decision was not made until a week before the election compared to 22% of Republican voters.
Voting Gaps: Age, Gender, Race, Class, and Economic Status
Voting preferences in the 2014 election were highly demographically stratified. Younger voters, female voters, non-white voters, and religiously unaffiliated voters were more likely to support Democratic candidates, while older voters, male voters, white voters, and white Protestant voters expressed stronger support for Republican candidates.
A majority (53%) of voters under the age of 40 report voting for a Democratic candidate in their election district, while a majority (56%) of senior voters (age 65 and over) cast ballots for the Republican candidate. There is also a gender gap. Female voters favored Democratic candidates (50%) over Republican candidates (42%), while male voters preferred Republican candidates (50%) to Democratic candidates (40%). A majority (55%) of white voters cast ballots for the Republican candidate, while nearly three-quarters (72%) of non-white voters supported the Democratic candidate.
There is also a substantial class division in voting preferences among white Americans. More than 6-in-10 (61%) white working-class voters supported the Republican candidate in their election district, while only about one-quarter (26%) supported the Democratic candidate. White college-educated voters split their vote nearly evenly between the Republican candidate (45%) and the Democratic candidate (48%). In 2012, Republican candidates had a significantly smaller advantage over Democrats among white working-class voters (55% vs. 35%).
Economic voting patterns can be seen clearly using PRRI’s Economic Insecurity Index. A slim majority (51%) of midterm voters who live in a high economic insecurity households supported the Democratic candidate, while 34% supported the Republican. By contrast, 41% of midterm voters who live in households with no reported economic insecurity supported the Democratic candidate, while 48% supported the Republican candidate.
The Religion Vote
This year, religious Americans’ voting preferences did not depart substantially from the patterns seen in national elections over the past decade. Eight-in-ten (80%) white evangelical Protestant voters supported the Republican candidate in their district, while 14% supported the Democratic candidate. Half (50%) of white mainline Protestant voters supported the Republican candidate, while fewer than 4-in-10 (39%) said they voted for the Democratic candidate. Nearly 6-in-10 (58%) white Catholics report casting a vote for the Republican candidate in their district, while one-third (33%) supported the Democratic candidate. Catholics overall were more divided between the Democratic (46%) and Republican (47%) candidates. In contrast, religiously unaffiliated voters strongly favored Democratic candidates (65%) over Republicans (26%). Minority Protestant voters also strongly supported Democratic candidates (70%) over Republican candidates (24%).
In 2012, nearly 8-in-10 (79%) voters in Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s coalition were white Christians, compared to only 35% of Obama voters. This year, the religious composition of each party’s coalition remained largely the same. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of voters who supported Republican candidates are white Christian compared to 3-in-10 (30%) voters supporting Democratic candidates.
Examining the specific religious affiliations of the Republican and Democratic voting blocs also reveals familiar patterns. White evangelical Protestants make up more than one-third (36%) Republican voters in 2014, the single most important religious group in the GOP coalition. Religiously unaffiliated voters constitute only about 1-in-10 (12%) of Republican voters. Conversely, religiously unaffiliated voters constitute 3-in-10 (30%) Democratic voters, while white evangelical Protestants make up only seven percent of Democratic voters.