5 Charts That Help Explain 2018

By Joe Ste.Marie

As we continue to unpack the 2018 election, here are 5 of my favorite charts that help explain why Democrats won, where the Democratic coalition is going, and how we can run smarter programs in the years ahead.

Democrats flipped the House by winning many close races in the suburbs. But the suburbs aren’t all the same — as the data team at the New York Times points out, Democrats are doing better in denser suburbs where voters tend to be wealthier. And in places like suburban Maricopa County, Arizona, many Democrats split tickets and voted for Democrat Kyrsten Sinema for Senate and Republican Doug Ducey for Governor. As we look ahead to 2020, we’re thinking critically about what works to persuade voters in more rural areas — especially in key Senate races like Iowa and Maine and in key Presidential states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

One of the most challenging parts about running House programs is that the districts don’t align with media markets for broadcast TV ads. To tackle that this year, we recommended budgets that reflected where TV is more efficient. On House programs this year, we recommended higher digital budgets in districts like NJ-03 — which is in the New York and Philadelphia media markets, two of the most expensive in the country — because digital ads can more efficiently reach voters.

Thanks to a very cool new methodology from our friends at Catalist, we have an early look under the hood of the blue wave (without depending on often unreliable exit polls). As we saw in 2016, Democrats continue to win over larger numbers of college-educated folks. We also saw a huge increase in turnout and vote share among younger voters.

On the other hand, Democrats actually lost vote share among non-college educated white folks. Democrats will need to keep investing in this new coalition — persuading white college-educated voters while continuing to earn the votes of voters of color and younger voters (the three part series from Catalist that breaks down this dataset is well-worth a read).

As my colleagues have previously written on this very blog, Facebook and Google released new transparency datasets this year that help us understand the way that different advertisers are spending on digital ads online. The biggest trend I took away: Republicans invested early online (in many cases, before they went up in races with TV ads) to define candidates.

By far one of the most important victories in 2018 is the diverse background of candidates who won, particularly the unprecedented number of women who will join Congress in January 2019. As the Democratic coalition (and America) becomes more diverse, electing candidates that reflect that is critical. I’m incredibly proud of working to elect candidates who will better represent the concerns of women, indigenous communities, and people of color.

There are more charts than I can count to highlight what happened in politics in 2018, but these are just some of the things we’re looking at as we look ahead to 2019 and beyond. As always, I’m really proud to be part of the work the BPI team did on these subjects in 2018 — and very excited to keep it up in the new year.