Down Ballot Turn Out in 2018 vs. 2014

First off, Democrats were across the board more popular in 2018. However, the size of their wins down ballot depended on better turn out. While there are still fewer people voting for the down ballot races those gaps all narrowed in 2018 when compared with the turn out in the Governor’s race.

2014 Down Ballot Drop-Off
Secretary of State: -7.65%
Treasurer: -3.82%
Attorney General: -4.51%

2018 Down Ballot Drop-Off
Secretary of State: -1.28%
Treasurer: -2.01%
Attorney General: -1.31%


Many voters who went for Hickenlooper at the top of the ticket in 2014 split their votes for the other races or (mostly) decided not vote in down ballot races. This tendency was cut by about 2/3rds in 2018.

2014 Democratic vote vs. Governor’s Race
Governor: 49.30% : 1,006,433
Secretary of State: -11.96% : -120,390
Treasurer: -12.32% : -123,996
Attorney General: -17.91% : -180,251

2018 Democratic vote vs. Governor’s Race
Governor: 53.42% : 1,348,888
Secretary of State: -2.61% : -35,172
Treasurer: -4.02% : -56,607
Attorney General: -4.70% : -63,424


Republicans did benefit from ticket splitting in 2018 with their down ballot candidates getting more votes down ballot than they did for Governor. Their problem was that the whole Republican brand was much less popular compared to 2014 and the relative size of their advantage diminished with greater turn out. In order to win something down ballot they need at least a 3% swing in the total statewide vote and for Democratic leaning voters to not vote down ballot races.

2014 Republican vote vs. Governor’s Race
Governor: 45.95% : 938,195
Secretary of State: -0.60% : -5,607
Treasurer: +4.38% : +41,086
Attorney General: +6.87% : 64,431

2018 Republican vote vs. Governor’s Race
Governor: 42.80% : 1,080,801
Secretary of State: +3.06% : +33,126
Treasurer: +4.38% : +41086
Attorney General: +4.07% : +43,956


The lower amount of ticket splitting also shows up in the third party vote. Making a direct comparison is a bit more apples and oranges due to the different mix of parties from year to year, but in 2014 a there were more voters for 3rd parties down ballot than for governor. In 2018 this was reversed.

2014 Third Party Votes
Governor: 4.75% : 96,977
Secretary of State: 7.68% : 151,203
Treasurer: 5.19% : 101,826
Attorney General: 6.19% :120,745

2018 Third Party Votes
Governor: 3.78% : 95,373
Secretary of State: 2.61% : 64,992
Treasurer: 2.85% : 70,475
Attorney General: 3.28% : 81,733


Now the one exception. The At-Large CU Regent’s race. Both major parties lost votes due to switches to 3rd parties as protest votes and due to people skipping the race entirely. The Democrats lost more votes than Republicans, but in a similar enough ratio to give this race a wider margin (8.93%) than the AG race (6.45%).

CU Regent At-Large
51.95% Democratic 1,246,318
43.02% Republican 1,031,993
1.21% Unity Party 29,128
3.82% Libertarian 91,586
Total votes: 2,399,025
Total Drop-off: -4.99% : -126,037
Dem Drop-off: -7.60% : -102,570
Rep Drop-off: -4.52% : -48,808

I personally suspect that without Jared Polis and Republican dark money this year would have looked more like the Regent’s race. Still a solid win for team blue, but not as overwhelming a win and with lower turn out for both.

About DENependent

Independent voter interested in the analysis of the "whys" of politics. Resident of Denver, Coloradan since 1980.

4 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DENependent says:

    The numbers so you do not have to go to Wikipedia or the SoS site to look them up.

    Governor 2018
    53.42% Democratic 1,348,888
    42.80% Republican 1,080,801
    1.02% Unity Party 25,854
    2.75% Libertarian 69,519
    Total votes: 2,525,062

    Secretary of State 2018
    52.70% Democratic 1313716
    44.69% Republican 1113927
    2.08% A.C.P. 51,734
    0.53% A.V.P. 13,258
    Total votes: 2,492,635

    Treasurer 2018
    52.23% Democratic 1,292,281
    44.93% Republican 1,111,641
    2.85% A.C.P. 70,475
    Total votes: 2,474,397

    Attorney General 2018
    51.58% Democratic 1285464
    45.14% Republican 1124757
    3.28% Libertarian 81733
    Total votes: 2,491,954

  2. JohnInDenver says:

    Interesting stuff — I wonder if there is a way to quantify drop offs by registered party / unaffiliated.  Those are the folks that made a huge difference in the overall pool of voters this year. 

    David Flaherty, of Magellan Strategies, wrote of the 2018 election:

    It was extraordinary because in the past 20 years never has one political party been so overwhelmingly rejected at every level of representative government by the electorate. It was extraordinary because unaffiliated voters, the largest and fastest growing affiliation in our state, participated in a mid-term election at a level that has never happened to before….

    Voter enthusiasm was overwhelming among Democratic and unaffiliated voters compared to Republican voters. In the 2014 mid-term election, 68% of registered Republicans turned out to vote, compared to 71% of Republicans in 2018, a 3-point increase. Among registered Democrat voters 2018, 71% turned out to vote, a 12-point increase from 59% in the 2014 election. Unaffiliated voters increased their percentage of voter turnout by 11-points, from 46% in 2014 to 57% in 2018.

    • DENependent says:

      Really, I am making assumptions about the number and type of people under voting on down ballot races. They are logical assumptions to look at the most popular of the statewide races and try to guess how many people under voted, but I do not actually know.

      The even more precise questions could not be answered without at least at least a sample of ballots. Then, even though we could not actually know the registration of the voters, we could characterize their actual behavior.

      I personally know some registered "Republicans" who actually vote straight Democratic tickets. They are in a heavily Republican county so to be involved in politics they are officially registered while disagreeing massively with the party.

  3. mamajama55 says:

    Well done, DenE. Your number crunching supports my intuition that we did in fact make our county  more purple than it was (if not blue), And we did turn out Democrats, and got new Democrats to vote, as well as unaffiliateds.  And by holding endless meet and greets and forums, we helped make it voters more comfortable in voting for those Democratic down-ballot candidates.

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