The DataHero Blog

A Data Perspective on Recent Elections

December 11th, 2014

ELECTION

American politics saw a big shift in the most recent mid-term elections. The Republican Party overtook majority in the Senate (for the first time since 2007), and increased its majority in the House of Representatives. Shifts like this are not uncommon, and are likely to happen again in the future. One thing that is not shifting is the fact that younger voters, as a whole, continue to show indifference during elections.

Nationwide voter turnout was the lowest in recent elections. This includes people age 18-24 but also some ethnicities as well. Looking at voter data from 2000-2014, can we see how the percentage of voters in each age bracket and ethnicity can determine the outcome of an election?

Let’s take a look at voters by ethnicity broken down by percentage for the past four presidential elections.

DataHero Voters by Ethnicity and Year (Percentage)

Overall, the minority percentage of voters is growing. However, this is not that surprising as minority population growth is accelerating in the US. Thus, it stands to reason that the number of minorities voting would increase as well. 

Something I found surprising though, was that minorities aren’t registered to vote at nearly the same rate as whites.

DataHero Registered vs. Unregistered by Ethnicity

White voters are registered in the highest percentage, followed by Blacks and Hispanic voters with Asian voters as distant third and fourth.

 

When minorities show up at the polls in larger percentages, how does this affect election results? The following four charts depict the percentage of minorities who voted in each election and which party won in each election.

DataHero Asian Voter Percentage by Election and Winner (1) DataHero Black Vote Percentage by Election and Presidential Winner (1) DataHero Hispanic Percentage by Election and Winner (1) DataHero White Percentage by Election and Winner (1) 

We can see a pretty distinct pattern that emerges with higher Hispanic and Black voter percentages in 2008 and 2012, and a Democrat taking office. In 2000, 2004, 2010 and 2014, Hispanic and Black voter percentages were slightly down and these were all Republican wins. There appears to be a slight relationship between White voter percentages as well, when white voters appear in larger percentages, Republicans tend to take office. Of course, we can’t say that this correlation implies causation, there could be many other factors at work here.

If we take a look at the percentage of registered voters by age bracket, we see another interesting pattern.

DataHero Percent Who Voted by Age Bracket and Year (1)

Millennials had a record turnout to vote in 2008, but that’s where this upward trend peaked. In 2012 only about 39% of millennials voted. For a generation that is said to favor civic engagement, why aren’t they turning up at the polls in larger numbers?

In fact, many younger voters aren’t even registered to vote.

 DataHero Registered vs. Not Registered by Age Bracket

The percentage of individuals registered to vote increases with almost every age bracket. Nearly half of people who are of voting age (18 – 24 years) aren’t even registered to vote. This is particularly disappointing for an age bracket that showed such promise in the previous presidential election.

This election data barely scratches the surface on all the ways we can slice and dice election data to try to predict which party will win. If you’re interested in such things, check out some of Nate Silver’s blog on the subject. 

If you’d like to give this data analysis a whirl on your own, check out these datasets and import them into DataHero.

 

By Kelli Simpson

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