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Hidden Trends From Election 2022

You’ve read the headlines. You’ve seen my colleagues [1] with the big takes [2].

But tens of millions of Americans voted in this week’s elections, each with their own reasons. That means patterns that haven’t broken through into the narrative. Those patterns still exist and can still surprise in elections down the road.

As an example, exit polls from 2008 showed one in six Bush voters crossing over to Barack Obama (NPR [3]). By 2012, Democrats assumed those voters were locked into the Democratic coalition. Then 2014 happened … and 2016.

What are the hidden trends of 2022?

I’d say the most important is generational: Millennials are now a competitive generation. In 2008, Obama was the under-30 vote by nearly 2-1. Fourteen years later, those voters (now in the 30-44 range), went Democratic by four points (NBC exit polls [4]). Assertions of social media users notwithstanding, American voters still shift rightward as they get older. Generation Z went heavily for the Democrats, but that’s no guarantee of how they’ll vote in the 2030s.

Speaking of demographics, the new GOP floor on “Hispanic” voters held. Discussion about this so far is relegated to the GOP sweep in Florida (I’ll get to that later). Democrats still won the Hispanic/Latino category, but the Republicans won 39%, their best figure since Bush’s 2004 re-election. History has shown us Irish-, Italian-, and Slavic-Americans shifting from non-white voters to white ethnic voters in perception. It usually took around two generations for this to happen. That’s right about where we are on recognizing “Hispanic” voters (who actually come from a slew of Latin American ethnicities) as a political force.

That said, there was NOT a major Hispanic shift in Florida. What’s that, you say? The Republicans won Miami-Dade County? Yes, they did, but there’s less to that than meets the eye.

In 2020, Trump won 46% of the MDC vote, compared to 51% overall – a five-point difference. In 2022, Rubio and DeSantis saw gaps of three and four points, respectively. South Texas 2020 this was not. Miami-Dade didn’t shift any more Republican than the rest of Florida. DeSantis’ 20-point win also helped him carry Palm Beach County. Democrats have all sorts of problems in Florida, but Florida Hispanics are not first among equals in that category.

Finally, there has been a shift in abortion views in the electorate. In 2020, 17% of voters supported a total ban on abortion access. In 2022, that figure was 10%. Supporters of legal or mostly legal abortion access, by contrast, jumped from 51% to 60%.

While there has been plenty of discussion about the Dobbs decision motivating women, trans men, and non-binaries to vote, the changing of minds hasn’t really been addressed. So not only did the pro-life political establishment misread the moment when Dobbs came down. They have also been driving Americans away with their behavior.

If we do reach a point where democracy itself is accepted by both major parties, the 2022 election revealed underlying currents that could put either Republicans or Democrats in the drivers’ seat come the 2030s and beyond while showing they each have work to do