Nov 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Split-ticket voters play outsized role in critical midterm contests

Party share of total vote in select U.S. Senate and governor races
Data: Daniel Moskowitz, New York Times; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Voters split their tickets — supporting a Democrat in one race and a Republican in another — in some of the most important states in this year's midterms.

Why it matters: Even in a hyper-partisan era, the quality of individual candidates clearly still matters — maybe even enough to tip the balance of power in the Senate.

  • "Both parties and the media love polarization porn, but normal voters know the electorate is volatile and ticket-splitters are common," said Liam Kerr, the co-founder of WelcomePAC, which tried to gin up Republican votes for Democrat Tim Ryan in Ohio's Senate race.

What we're watching: In close Senate races like Georgia and Arizona, where the margins may fall under one or two points, split-ticket voters have the potential to decide the final results.

  • Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp easily dispatched Democrat Stacey Abrams by seven points, but GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker is narrowly trailing Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
  • The Georgia Senate race is headed to a Dec. 6 runoff — a litmus test for how well candidates fare when the more popular candidate from the party is no longer on the ticket.

In Arizona's Senate race, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly was leading Republican Blake Masters by about five points with 70% of the results reported on Thursday evening.

  • But in the governor's race, Trump-backed Republican Kari Lake is neck-and-neck with Democrat Katie Hobbs.

In Ohio's Senate race, Ryan — who described himself as "independent" and boasted about voting with former President Trump on trade — set a model for other Democrats campaigning in the Midwest.

  • He outperformed Democratic gubernatorial Nan Whaley by nearly 10 points, despite ultimately losing his Senate bid to Republican J.D. Vance.

By the numbers: Vermont, New Hampshire, Kansas, and Ohio had the highest share of split tickets, according to research by Daniel Moskowitz, an assistant professor at University Chicago who studies split-ticket voting.

  • In Kansas, Sen. Jerry Moran (R) won re-election along with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.
  • In New Hampshire, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) won a second term, along with Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.
  • In Vermont, Rep. Peter Welch (D) won the Senate seat while Republican Gov. Phil Scott won a third term.

What they're saying: "[M]y sense is that it's pretty similar to the levels of ticket splitting we've seen in the past three or so midterm elections, but it is way lower than it used to be compared to say the 1970s and 80s," Moskowitz said.

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