Study of Potential 2010 Turnout Paints Gloomy Picture for Democrats

According to a study by the New Organizing Institute of likely 2010 turnout demographics, things look bad for Democrats. Their research shows that, in addition to some long-term trends that hurt Democrats in midterm elections, like a substantial decline in youth turnout, there are some worrying signs for this year in particular, like a projected higher-than-average drop-off in African-American voting. From the NOI research paper:

  • We expect African-Americans to drop off at a higher rate in 2010 than in previous midterm elections.
  • We expect Democratic voters to drop off at a higher rate in 2010 than in previous midterm elections.
  • We cannot find a link between the “enthusiasm gap ” and base turnout.
  • Young people tend to drop off at very high rates in midterm elections.
  • Recent movers have also dropped off at very high rates in midterm elections.
  • African-Americans, Hispanics, unmarried women, and people with less than a bachelor’s degree tend to drop off at higher rates in midterm elections than the general public.
  • On average, self-identified Republicans make up a larger share of all voters in midterm elections than they do in Presidential elections.
  • Off-year elections such as those from 2005 and 2009 are indicators of drop-off in midterms.

While much of the findings are fairly intuitive, it is useful to have data showing roughly how much the youth vote or the Hispanic vote tends to drop.

Even without a bad economy or an enthusiasm gap, Democrats would have had a very tough time holding on to 2008 Congressional gains because of the pattern of decline in some of their most supportive segments. Add in problems specific to this cycle, and the picture becomes pretty bleak.

Of all the findings, the one that I think Democrats should be most worried about is the predicted drop-off in the African-American vote. There was not a disproportionately high African-American drop off in the 2005 off-year elections, but there was in 2009 in the Virginia and New Jersey elections.

Traditionally, African-Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, so even a modest decrease in their turnout could be harmful to the party. Add to low turnout projections, PPP’s finding that Democrats are underperforming with African-Americans this cycle, and you have a recipe for some real trouble.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at