How Iowa's 2018 turnout increased by party, age, gender

Thirteenth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2018 state and federal elections.

Immediately after the November election, it was obvious turnout in Iowa was unusually high for a non-presidential year. Now that the Secretary of State’s office has published the statewide statistical report, we can get a closer look at which demographic groups were most engaged. Let’s dive in:

MUCH HIGHER TURNOUT AMONG DEMOCRATS AND INDEPENDENTS

Iowans of all political persuasions turned out in large numbers for the November election, but the sharpest increase was among Democrats and no-party voters. Democratic turnout was approximately 20 percent higher last year than for the 2010 and 2014 midterms and surpassed the level seen in 2002, when Governor Tom Vilsack and Senator Tom Harkin won re-election by comfortable margins.

Iowans affiliated with no party cast far more ballots in November than in any non-presidential election for decades.

Antipathy to President Barack Obama and other factors fueled GOP landslides in 2010 and 2014. So it’s not surprising that Republican turnout was only slightly higher in 2018 than in the last two midterms. Had Iowa Republican enthusiasm been at the same level in November as four or eight years ago, Fred Hubbell would be the governor-elect. He finished only about 36,000 votes behind Governor Kim Reynolds.

All numbers in this table come from statewide statistical reports available on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.

Turnout by party in Iowa midterms
Party registration 2002 2006 2010 2014 2018
Democrats registered 537,425 619,248 699,963 661,878 677,668
Democrats voting 353,584 384,983 395,312 374,990 458,902
Democratic turnout 65.8% 62.2% 56.5% 56.7% 67.7%
GOP registered 589,517 595,464 648,646 663,177 688,246
GOP voting 412,863 386,382 447,445 452,283 492,802
GOP turnout 70.0% 64.9% 69.0% 68.2% 71.6%
no-party registered 685,329 766,752 773,282 807,088 803,429
no-party voting 254,753 273,094 281,546 305,108 368,772
no-party turnout 37.2% 35.6% 36.5% 37.8% 45.9%
 
total registered 1,812,271 1,981,464 2,124,116 2,138,683 2,187,097
total voting 1,021,200 1,044,459 1,125,386 1,135,138 1,329,930
total turnout 56.3% 52.7% 53.0% 53.1% 60.8%

DESPITE HIGHER YOUTH TURNOUT, MOST VOTERS OVER 50

Iowans of all ages participated in the 2018 election at higher rates than in other recent midterms. The sharpest increases were among the youngest eligible voters, which surely helped Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer defeat two Republican members of Congress. Greater involvement by voters under 35 was probably an important factor in keeping the governor’s race relatively close as well.

However, older Iowans still vastly outnumber the millennials in the electorate. Last year, voters age 50 or over cast nearly three-fifths of the general election ballots (59.6 percent). Those under 35 cast less than one-fifth of the ballots (18.9 percent). That’s a slight shift from 2014, when about 64 percent of Iowans who voted were at least 50 years old, and about one-sixth were under 35.

For the foreseeable future, successful statewide candidates in Iowa will need to appeal to an older demographic.

Turnout by age group in Iowa midterms
Age group 2002 2006 2010 2014 2018
18-24 registered 221,763 239,189 248,766 237,397 248,411
18-24 voting 48,811 51,776 59,861 56,020 93,808
18-24 turnout 22.0% 21.7% 24.1% 23.6% 37.8%
25-34 registered 282,451 334,664 388,149 389,222 387,283
25-34 voting 98,724 101,015 199,510 118,679 158,049
25-34 turnout 35.0% 30.2% 30.8% 30.5% 40.8%
35-49 registered 519,321 531,808 514,112 488,332 495,720
35-49 voting 299,644 275,648 257,406 234,020 286,080
35-49 turnout 57.7% 51.8% 50.1% 47.9% 57.7%
50-64 registered 409,211 485,029 550,169 564,865 545,745
50-64 voting 296,631 334,672 378,349 379,881 391,837
50-64 turnout 72.5% 69.0% 68.8% 67.3% 71.8%
Over 65 registered 379,520 390,771 422,920 458,866 509,937
Over 65 voting 277,390 281,346 310,259 346,538 400,156
Over 65 turnout 73.1% 72.0% 73.4% 75.5% 78.5%
 
total registered 1,812,271 1,981,464 2,124,116 2,138,683 2,187,097
total voting 1,021,200 1,044,459 1,125,386 1,135,138 1,329,930
total turnout 56.3% 52.7% 53.0% 53.1% 60.8%

NO SIGNS OF A GENDER GAP IN TURNOUT

Iowans elected a woman governor, two women to the U.S. House, and record numbers of women to the state legislature in 2018, so I was eager to see the gender breakdown of last year’s midterm participants.

The new numbers don’t suggest that Iowa women were significantly more engaged in the latest election than men. Turnout increased by roughly the same amount for both groups. (Note: the Iowa Secretary of State’s office does not record data about non-binary or gender-nonconforming voters.)

Opinion polls from around the country suggests that women, especially suburban women, were more inclined to support Democratic candidates in 2018 than in past midterms. It appears that Axne and the five Democrats who won Republican-held Iowa House seats in the Des Moines suburbs benefited from a growing gender gap in political preferences, not from disparate levels of interest in voting among men and women.

Turnout by gender in Iowa midterms
Gender 2002 2006 2010 2014 2018
Women registered 962,028 1,049,370 1,116,622 1,119,837 1,140,506
Women voting 541,145 552,260 587,561 593,649 697,349
Female turnout 56.3% 52.6% 52.6% 53.0% 61.1%
Men registered 850,172 932,050 1,007,485 1,018,827 1,046,586
Men voting 480,036 492,198 537,824 541,489 632,581
Male turnout 56.5% 52.8% 53.4% 53.2% 60.4%
 
total registered 1,812,271 1,981,464 2,124,116 2,138,683 2,187,097
total voting 1,021,200 1,044,459 1,125,386 1,135,138 1,329,930
total turnout 56.3% 52.7% 53.0% 53.1% 60.8%

Any comments about turnout in 2018 are welcome in this thread.

Appendix: All three pages of the statewide statistical report on Iowa’s 2018 general election

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