U.S. Voter Turnout for the Midterm Elections in November Could Hit a 50-Year High

October 18, 2018, 1:53 PM UTC

November could see the highest voter turnout in 50 years, based on a new prediction this week.

Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who studies voter turnout, told NPR that turnout this year could be at a rate “that most people have never experienced in their lives for a midterm election.”

McDonald’s prediction is based on four indicators: record special election turnout, high primary turnout, a high degree of self-reported interest in the election, and high levels of early voting. Based on these, McDonald predicts that as many as 45-50% of eligible voters will do so. In 2014 just 36.7% voted, the lowest since 1942. Such high levels of voter turnout have not been seen since 1970 when 47% of the eligible population voted, or in 1966 when a record 49% voted in a midterm.

A number of recent polls would appear to corroborate McDonald’s prediction. A poll sponsored by a trio of SurveyMonkey, TheSkimm, and Vanity Fair’s The Hive from early October found that 62% of Americans believe that the 2018 midterm elections are more important than other midterms in their lifetime. Of those polled, two-thirds said they were “absolutely certain to vote” in the upcoming election.

Even young people, who have historically turned out in lower numbers than other voting groups, appear more driven to vote in November. A late August poll by NBC News and GenForward shows that 55% of millennials plan to vote. Should they actually turn up to the polls at that rate, it would mark a significant increase from midterms of years past: in 2014, voters under 30 comprised just 13% of the midterm electorate, and 12% in 2010.

With Republican control of both the House and Senate on the line and a Trump presidency driving greater interest in politics more broadly, voters from both sides of the aisle see a lot at stake. Whether they actually show up on Election Day remains to be seen.