TargetSmart Insights - TargetSmart Analysis Shows Significant Surge in Youth, Hispanic Vote Share in California

The blue wave that defined the 2018 midterm elections was especially evident in California, where Democrats flipped seven key House seats, including long-time Republican-held seats in bastions of conservatism like Orange County. According to a new TargetSmart analysis, a significant surge in the vote share of young and Hispanic voters compared to previous elections reflects how a diversifying electorate could have potential impacts on the strength of the blue wave in future elections.

As with many other traditional and emerging battleground states, California saw significant increases in the vote share of young voters and people of color. Voters under 30 and Hispanic voters were a particularly powerful force at the CA polls in 2018 relative to 2014. Our analysis shows that voters under 30 nearly doubled their vote share relative to 2014, and that vote shares among Hispanic voters significantly increased in 2018 relative to 2014. Youth voters and Hispanic voters also dominated the vote share of first time voters. Our analysis found that youth voters made up almost half of new voters, and nearly a third of new voters in 2018 were Hispanic. Keep in mind, we know who voted, but we don’t know how each individual voted.

The increased share of young voters was a defining feature of the 2018 midterm elections across the country, and California was no exception. In California’s 2018 election, voters under 30 nearly doubled their vote share relative to 2014; voters under 30 accounted for 13.1 percent of ballots cast compared to 7.1 percent in 2014. The surge in youth vote share in California was so significant that it nearly rivaled that cohort’s level of vote share 2016 presidential election. Voters 40 and over accounted for less of the total vote share relative to 2014 by nearly 11 percent, with the biggest drop coming from voters between the ages of 50 and 64 (a six percent drop in vote share compared to 2014).

Our analysis also finds that CA Hispanic voters significantly increased their vote share relative to 2014. Hispanic voters accounted for 19.7 percent of the ballots cast in 2018, nearly a six percent increase from 13.9 percent in 2014. African-American and Asian voters also saw a moderate increase in vote share relative to 2014. Black voters’ vote share was 2.85 percent in 2018, compared to 2.76 percent in 2014; and Asian voters’ vote share was 7.89 percent in 2018, compared to 6.8 percent in 2014. Asian voters constituted more of the vote share in the 2018 midterm elections that in the 2016 presidential election, when their vote share was 7.6 percent. White voters were the only demographic who saw a decrease in vote share relative to 2014. White voters accounted for 65.12 percent of ballots cast in 2018, compared to 73.01 percent in 2014.

While female vote share remained relatively static between 2014 and 2018, vote share among men decreased by 3.6 percent in 2018 relative to 2014. Women accounted for 50. 6 percent of votes cast in 2018, compared to 52.5 percent in 2016 and 52.1 percent in 2014. Men accounted for 43.5 percent of votes cast in 2018, compared to 44.1 percent in 2016 and 44.1 percent in 2014.

Finally, 963,580 people who had never voted before voted in California in 2018. The youth and Hispanic surge in vote share is clearly evident in our analysis of first time voter data. Voters under the age of 30 accounted for almost 50 percent of new voters, and nearly a third of first time voters were Hispanic. Women accounted for 43.8 percent of first time voters, men accounted for 38.5 percent of first time voters, and voters whose gender is unknown accounted for 17.77 percent of first time voters.