But Democrats should keep in mind that the Democratic voters likely to sit out 2022 are not the left-wing base. They’ll probably be more moderate and mainstream Democrats.
Democrats hold a 1-point advantage among all registered voters on the generic congressional ballot, which is within the margin of error. Among those voters who say they’re extremely or very enthusiastic about voting in the midterms, Republicans hold a 4-point edge. Democrats, meanwhile, are up 6 points among those who are only somewhat or not enthusiastic about voting next year.
Now look at those who say they’re going to vote Democratic and are enthusiastic vs. those who are not. Very liberals make up 20% of those who are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting next year, while only 11% of those aren’t. That is, the Democratic voters who are more enthusiastic about voting next year are more likely to be very liberal than those are lack enthusiasm.
You can see this in party identification (instead of going by who they’re going to vote for) too. Very liberals make up 20% among those who identify as closer to the Democratic Party and are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting next year. They’re 11% of those who aren’t.
It’s not only about self-described ideology. It’s about actual issues.
Among Democrats who are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting next year, 85% say vaccine mandates are acceptable. Among those who are only somewhat or not enthusiastic, 73% say they’re acceptable. Nearly double of less enthusiastic Democratic voters (27%) say they’re unacceptable than very or extremely enthusiastic voters (15%).
History suggests that these trends are more likely than not to hold once voting occurs in 2022.
By contrast, Republicans made up only 1 point of voters who cast a ballot in midterms with a Republican president than all voters.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the last midterm (2014) with a Democratic president. Democratic voters who didn’t vote in 2014 were disproportionately left wing. They were actually more likely to be somewhat liberal or moderate.
Indeed, it also holds if we include all non-voters whether they’re registered or not. Democrats who didn’t cast a ballot in 2014 were 9 points less likely to say they were very liberal and 12 points less likely to say they were liberal (very or somewhat) than those who did vote.
The CCES is, however, just one dataset.
But the same thing seems to hold in the last midterm as well: the Democrats who dropped off were less likely to be liberal.
A mere 37% of the Democrats who didn’t vote in either 2016, 2018 or 2020 said they were liberal.
Of course, none of this should be terribly surprising. The voters who sit out elections are more moderate overall, regardless of their party affiliation, in the Pew dataset.
Therein lies the potentially good news for Democrats. The people less likely to vote as well as those who are persuadable voters are more likely to be closer to the center of the aisle.
A more similar message than one might expect could work to capture both of these groups. Biden and the Democrats may need a strong one ahead of 2022.