While the 2008 electorate was the most diverse in American history, and voters gave the majority of their votes to Democrats, the 2010 midterm election experienced unusually high participation from older and wealthier voters who strongly favored Republican candidates, according to an analysis released by the national voting rights group Project Vote.
The analysis by Dr. Lorraine Minnite showed that, while voting for the most part followed predictable historic trends for midterm elections across the country, a few distinct features of the 2010 voting population stand out that contributed to the results:
- Across the country, senior citizens turned out in force, with the number of ballots cast by voters over 65 increasing by 16 percent. While making up only 13 percent of the U.S. resident population, Americans in this age group constituted 21 percent of 2010 voters. This age group also significantly increased their support of Republican candidates, from 49 percent in 2006 to 59 percent in 2010.
- The number of ballots cast by Americans from households making over $200,000 a year increased by 68 percent compared to 2006.
- Relative to 2008, minority and youth voters dropped out of the voting population at higher rates than whites, undoing much of the gain in demographic parity achieved in 2008.
- Women—already one of the most reliable voting groups—increased their share of the electorate, and significantly increased their support of the Republican Party.
“It is fair to say that 2010 was the year of older, rich people,” Dr. Minnite writes in the study.
The memo includes state-specific analysis and tables for several states, including Texas. In Texas, the total number of ballots increased at a higher rate than the national average: 13 percent, compared to five percent in national House balloting. Texas saw increases in minority voting, with both African Americans and Latinos increasing their share of the electorate over 2006 levels.
“As in most midterm elections, the people who voted in 2010 were not really representative of the American people,” says Michael Slater, executive director of Project Vote. “This study raises serious questions about which constituencies candidates choose to court and engage as they look ahead to 2012, since the electorate, as a whole, is shifting away from the views and values of the older, wealthier white conservatives who dominated the 2010 election.”