Record 2018 turnout is powered by an “easy” voting experience

The 2018 midterm election had the highest voter turnout since 1914, the last year midterm turnout broke 50%, and was way above the average of 40.3% over the last 50 years (1914 turnout was 50.1%, and 2018 was 50.3%).

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in November 2018 ( 92% of midterm voters said it was easy for them to vote in the 2018 election, with 76% saying they found voting very easy. There was virtually no difference between those who voted on election day or earlier. Interestingly, in the pre-election survey conducted by Pew in October 2018, only 44% thought the voting process would be very easy.

It is not surprising that voters had such a positive experience considering the different opportunities voters have to cast their ballot. With the exception of a few mail-only ballot states, voters can choose to vote at the polls on election day, and also in a growing number of states voters have the option to vote early in person or to fill out a paper ballot and either mail it in or drop it off.

More states are adding these early vote options every cycle, and voters are certainly taking advantage of them. The chart below from our firm’s election night surveys since 2000 shows that in both Presidential and midterm elections, an increasing number of voters are opting to cast their vote early.

Interestingly, a majority of those in the Pew survey who did not vote in 2018 say they wish they had – 61% of non-voters in the Pew survey say they wish they had voted in the midterms. Considering 2018 turnout and voters’ positive associations with the process (and maybe a little non-voting remorse), we could very well see record-breaking turnout once again in 2020.


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