Insights Speaker Series recaps 2022 midterm elections with three presentations

November 21, 2022

Contact: Jon Meerdink ([email protected])

ANN ARBOR — Three researchers with expertise in American politics weighed in on the 2022 midterm elections in the latest edition of the Insights Speaker Series on Thursday, November 17. Jowei Chen, Mara Ostfeld, and Nick Valentino shared their perspectives on the election results and the overall trends on display in three key areas.

Chen spoke to the effects of gerrymandering on this fall’s vote. The 2022 midterms are the first election affected by redistricting following the 2020 census and Chen noted two observations about redistricting and its impact on local and national politics.

“The first is that redistricting really matters. It really shapes the makeup of our congressional delegations, both here in Michigan and elsewhere,” he said. “But the second is that in the aggregate, redistricting doesn’t actually amount to that much of an advantage for either party.”

Chen studied numerous redistricting practices across the country and noted that gerrymandering is present among both Democratic- and Republican-controlled states. However, many states are also choosing to put more control into the hands of independent (or at least politically balanced) redistricting committees, which has led to less gerrymandering in states where that approach is used.

Ostfeld, meanwhile, studied several trends related to Latinx voters in the 2022 election. Contrary to a significant amount of mainstream reporting, Ostfeld’s data indicated that Latinx voters were not notably more conservative than other voting blocs, nor were they shifting toward the right more than any other demographic group. She pointed to Latinx data on abortion as particularly significant evidence of these trends.

“About three in four Latinx voters believe abortion should be legal in all cases, and nearly 30% of Latinx voters chose abortion as their most important issue in the 2022 midterms,” said Ostfeld.

Even relative to other Republicans, Latinx voters were still more liberal. According to Ostfeld’s data, Latinx Republican voters had much more liberal views on climate change, student loan forgiveness, immigration, and abortion than their white counterparts.

Finally, Valentino presented his findings on voter motivations in the 2022 elections and how they compared to previous elections. According to Valentino, while fear is commonly characterized as the most common motivation behind political decisions, research shows that anger is much more common — and powerful — motivator.

Valentino’s research indicated that anger concerning gender and identities was a powerful force behind voter turnout for Donald Trump in 2016, while anger over abortion rights was an equally powerful force in 2022, particularly in states like Michigan which had abortion-related items on the ballot.

“Anger about abortion in 2022 was far more pronounced than anger about immigration, which the right was trying very hard to push,” he said.

Valentino also believed that turnout of younger voters was significant, though the motivation behind their turnout was the more important factor.

“I would say that’s the result of the powerful threat that people saw to their bodily autonomy.”The Insights Speaker Series explores key issues with unique insights from the Institute for Social Research’s subject matter experts. View past Insights presentations here and stay up to date on future presentations.

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