Polling News

Dems See Midterm Decline in Urban Cores

December 22, 2022

Democratic midterm victories did not come without alarm bells being sounded by their strategists over a particularly problematic trend that emerged the election. Post-election analysis from the Wall Street Journalshows that in some of America’s largest urban cores, the number of Democratic votes cast fell from the 2018 midterm.

Why It Matters: The electorate and both party’s bases change over time. A fall in enthusiasm leading to a decrease in turnout may be a sign of a deeper problem for Democrats in reaching.

The midterm cycle still brought more success for Democrats than many, if not most, had predicted, demonstrating Democrats can win even if turnout in urban centers is sub-par. That said, the falloff was clearly responsible for some significant Democratic losses and close calls this year. 

By The Numbers:

  1. 12% fewer voters cast their ballot in Detroit, MI, down roughly 22,600 from 2018
  2. 10% fewer voters cast their ballot in Philadelphia, PA, down 55,300 from 2018
  3. 17% fewer voters cast their ballots in Columbus, OH, down 50,000 from 2018


Majority-Minority Problems: While full demographic breakdowns are not yet known, analysts say the decline came primarily from majority Black and Latino precincts in the biggest cities. WSJ analysis of the votes cast in Philadelphia showed that in heavily Black precincts, turnout fell by 20%, while in Latino precincts there was a 29% deficit of votes. In majority-white precincts, turnout increased slightly, but not enough to offset the trend. Still, Republicans in the city gained almost 12,000 votes over 2018, while Democrats lost roughly 68,000.

The Wisconsin Slide: In the key battleground of Wisconsin, the decline in urban votes was a significant contributor to Democrat Mandela Barnes’ loss to incumbent GOP Sen. Ron Johnson this year. Milwaukee saw a 17% decline from 2018 to 2022, down almost 36,000 votes. Barnes received an 80% share of the votes cast: the WSJ noted that had Barnes received 80% with the same turnout as 2018, Johnson’s statewide victory margin would have shrunk from 1% to 0.17%.

The Bottom Line: Democrats are seeing a marked lack of enthusiasm among Black and Latino voters in their traditional urban strongholds. Meanwhile, these two voting bases, especially Latinos, are trending towards the GOP. Republicans should keep investing in these key groups to continue the Democratic urban turnout decline.

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