Census Report Shows Voting Patterns Changing

Polling Station Sign
Polling Station Sign | Image by Patricia Marroquin/Getty Images

The United States Census Bureau released a new report on Wednesday that examines the changes in voting behavior nationally and at the state level in congressional elections, revealing some surprising trends.

The report is based on data collected from the 2022 congressional election and compares that data to elections dating back to 1978. Co-authored by Jacob Fabina and Michael Martin, the report was based on data collected through the Current Population Survey. While the survey has been conducted since the 1960s, it was only in 1978 that demographic data became reliable for drawing conclusions.

The report shows that older, more educated, and non-Hispanic white voters dominate congressional elections. It also highlights the lack of participation in elections by eligible Americans, which allows certain groups to tilt elections. Researchers compiling the report found that the eligible voting population of the U.S. totals around 233.5 million people, but just 161.4 million people voted, a turnout of 52.2%.

The study found that voters over the age of 65 represent just 23.8% of the eligible voting population but represented 30.4% of all votes cast, a clear indication of the power older Americans have in the course of deciding congressional representatives who are responsible for crafting laws, creating budgets, and determining the course of action the U.S. takes on a global scale.

Combined with the 45 to 64-year-old population, these voters represent more than 65% of the votes cast. Voters between the ages of 18 and 44 comprise 44.1% of eligible voters but only accounted for 33.7% of votes cast.

The study found stark differences in the demographics of voters. White female voters were the largest percentage of votes. Female voters represented 52.5% of the votes cast, while male and female white voters totaled more than 73% of voting totals. Just 9.7% of the total votes cast were from Hispanic voters. Only 3.9% of voters reported being Asian, while just under 11% reported being black.

Some of the congressional voting trends the study identified are also cause for concern. Notably, the percentage of eligible voters 18 to 29 who actually vote has significantly declined since 1978. At the same time, the number of voters over the age of 65 has increased during the same period of time. The number of middle-aged voters between these two groups has fluctuated over time, but not to a “statistically significant” level, according to the study’s authors.

The authors point out that voting trends between states have many variables in a congressional election, as there are no nationwide candidates seeking office. However, they do point out some stark voting trends in Texas. Younger voters — those between 18 and 29 — make up 21.4% of the voting population in the state, but less than half of the cohort cast votes in 2022.

The study asked respondents who did not vote to provide a reason. According to the authors, the most common reason provided was “too busy,” despite widespread access to vote by mail and early voting options. More than a quarter of the 37 million eligible voters who did not vote responded that they were too busy. Also alarming is the revelation that eligible citizens who are not registered overwhelmingly responded that they were “not interested” in voting. A full 41% of non-registered eligible voters responded this way.

The authors highlight that the 2022 election stood out from previous elections because of the highest turnout by white voters versus all other races in the history of congressional elections, while the number of voters over the age of 65 was higher than at any time in the last 30 years.

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