PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's latest figures on the composition of the 2010 electorate suggest that, consistent with an earlier Gallup report, those voting in this year's congressional elections across the country will be similar in gender, age, and education to 2006 voters. At the same time, they will be substantially more Republican in their party orientation, and more conservative than has been the case in the past several midterms.
The current and historical likely voter data reviewed here assume an approximately 40% turnout rate among national adults for each election, close to the typical turnout rate recorded in recent midterm years. (Gallup has also calculated the 2010 congressional vote using an assumption of higher turnout.)
Specifically, 55% of likely voters in Gallup's Oct. 14-24, 2010, polling are Republicans and independents who lean Republican. This is higher than the Republican showing in the past four midterm elections, although not too dissimilar to the 51% found in 2002. The corollary of this is that the 40% of likely voters now identifying as Democratic is the lowest such percentage of the past several midterms.
Notably, this year's high Republican representation among likely voters stems mainly from a substantial increase in Republican-leaning independents in the likely voter pool -- now at 16% -- reflecting the broader shift toward the Republican Party among independents evident since 2009.
With respect to political ideology, the 48% of likely voters now describing their political views as conservative is slightly greater than the 42% to 45% seen in each of the prior three midterms. However, the percentage of likely voters identifying as liberal has also generally increased over this period. Both changes are consistent with broader patterns Gallup has identified in the past year.
Age, Gender, and Educational Profile of Voters on Par With 2006
Likely voters' demographic profile has shifted somewhat since 1994, with increases in the proportions of nonwhites, college graduates, and adults in the 50 to 64 and 65+ age brackets. These changes stem partly from larger societal trends associated with aging baby boomers and expanding minority populations. However, apart from these changes, the demographic profile of 2010 likely voters is in line with that of previous elections, particularly as compared with 2006 voters.
Gallup's recent tracking of the generic ballot for Congress has shown the Republicans with substantial leads over the Democrats among likely voters, in part because the underlying registered voter population leans Republican in its vote choice. Compared with previous elections, that tilt is an extraordinary positioning for the Republicans, who typically do no better than tie the Democrats among registered voters. The GOP's position is further enhanced by the generally strong proclivity of Republicans to turn out to vote, which appears to be even greater than usual this year.
In some important demographic respects -- namely, gender, age, and education -- 2010 midterm voters will be quite typical of past electorates. However, should the figures reported here hold through the final poll conducted this coming weekend, this will be only the second time in the last five midterm elections in which the majority of voters on Election Day were Republican in their party identification or leanings, likely exceeding the 51% found in 2002. Much of this is explained by a surge in Republican-leaning independents.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 14-17 and Oct. 21-24, 2010, with a random sample of 3,051 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.
Results for likely voters are based on a sample of 1,989 survey respondents deemed most likely to vote in the November 2010 general election, according to a series of questions measuring current voting intentions and past voting behavior. For results based on the sample of likely voters, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.