Exit poll data is easy to distort, and the overlaps of many categories are often ignored, but here are some insights from how people voted Tuesday. It's not pretty.
Some of these comparisons are to the 2008 turnout's composition (if not its overall volume) and some of them are to the 2006 midterms, further muddying the water. But let's look for some clarity here.
First, there's the fact that the electorate was whiter and older, which certainly worked in the Republicans' favor. Per Michael Tomasky:
1. The 2008 electorate was 74% white, plus 13% black and 9% Latino. The 2010 numbers were 78, 10 and 8. So it was a considerably whiter electorate.
2. In 2008, 18-to-29-year-olds made up 18% and those 65-plus made up 16%. Young people actually outvoted old people. This year, the young cohort was down to 11%, and the seniors were up to a whopping 23% of the electorate. That's a 24-point flip.
Put another way, says Tomasky, there were at least 45 million people who voted in 2008 who didn't show up in 2010, "and the exits tell us the bulk of them were liberal, young, black, Latino. If 25 million of these no-shows had voted, Democratic losses would pretty obviously have been in the normal range, and they'd still control the House." Compared to 2006, though, turnout was high, according to a Fox News analysis.
That said, underestimating the Latino vote in two states, Nevada and Colorado, may have actually explained why people were surprised by Harry Reid and Michael Bennet's wins there, according to Nate Silver.
Women overall maintained our usual share of the electorate — 53 percent — but the women who turned out narrowed the gender gap that usually exists among GOP voters. In 2008, women voted for Democrats 56 percent of the time, but this year, only 49 percent of them did.
31 percent of people who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual voted for Republicans on Election Day. That represents a big uptick from the 24 percent of gays who voted for the GOP in 2006 and from only 19 percent who did so in 2008."
There's another major caveat on this data: "[But] even with the shift, gay voters are among the top five demographic groups that vote Democratic, along with Hispanic and black voters."
By the way, the prediction that the number of women in Congress would go down was more than borne out, heightened by the rightward tilt of the electorate this year. Writes Jennifer Lawless,
Because 77 percent of the women in the U.S. House and Senate were Democrats heading into the election, women were in a precarious position as they faced an anti-Democratic, anti-establishment electorate....Granted, all 15 female Republican incumbents who sought reelection won their races. Republican women also won the two open seat contests in which women competed. But 26 of the 32 female Republican challengers lost to Democratic incumbents in the House. Only 1 out of 5 Republican women running for an open seat or against an incumbent in the Senate won (Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire).
No year of the woman, this.
A Net Loss For Women In Politics [Slate]
Women, Independent Voters Show Greatest Swing From 2008 [Fox News]
Exit Poll: Nearly A Third Of Gays Voted For GOP [Yahoo/Upshot]
Turnout Says A Lot [Guardian]