Victory in Iowa
Democrats have been fretting in recent years about how once-purple Iowa was ostensibly slipping into red territory. After President Barack Obama won the state twice, the 2014 and 2016 election cycles saw Republicans expand and maintain their grip on state and federal seats. November 2018’s midterm elections show, however, that despite older and whiter voters continuing to compose a majority of the vote share, Democrats still have a path to winning in the state: Democrats flipped two House seats in Iowa in the 2018 midterm elections, nearly unseated Rep. Steve King, and held the gubernatorial race to within three points.
A new TargetSmart analysis finds that while vote share in Iowa by age, gender, and race has remained relatively static between the 2014, 2016, and 2018 elections, Republicans don’t necessarily have a lock on who those constituencies are voting for.
The increased share of young voters was a defining feature of the 2018 midterm elections across the country, including Iowa, though not as marked as other states. Voters under the age of 40 in Iowa increased their vote share relative to 2014, with voters under 30 increasing their vote share by about two percent. Voters 40 and over accounted for less of the total vote share relative to 2014 by nearly four percent, with the biggest drop coming from voters between the ages of 50 and 64.
Iowa is roughly 92 percent white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Our analysis finds that white voters made up 96.7 percent of the 2018 vote share, compared to 97.8 percent in 2014 — meaning that white voters are overrepresented in their voting patterns, and that Democrats have room to turn out people of color in Iowa at higher levels than they are currently voting.
African-American voters made up 0.54 percent of the 2018 vote share, compared to 0.48 in 2014. Hispanic and Asian voters made up 0.66 and 0.26 percent of the 2018 vote share, respectively, compared to 0.39 and 0.16 percent in 2014.
The gender breakdown of vote share stayed relatively static between 2014, 2016, and 2018. Women accounted for 52.5 percent of votes cast in 2018, compared to 53.2 percent in 2016 and 52.3 percent in 2014. Men accounted for 47.6 percent of votes cast in 2018, compared to 46.8 percent in 2016 and 47.6 percent in 2014.
Additionally, 63,959 people who had never voted before voted in Iowa in 2018. 62.9 percent of those new voters were under the age of 30, 90 percent were white, 1 percent were African-American and 51.3 percent were women.
Finally, 41,609 people in Iowa registered and voted for the first time in 2018 — and 67.5 percent were under the age of 30, 52.3 percent were women, 89.5 percent were white and 1.1 percent were African-American.