In 2010, voters decided to throw out the Democrats in the House and greatly reduce their majority in the Senate. In 2012, voters re-elected President Obama by a wide margin, and added Democrats in the House and Senate. Did the voters change their minds so drastically? Or is there some other reason for these contradictory events? Comparing the exit polls from 2012 to those from 2010 provides the answer.

What will be presented here is a table that looks at the the ages of voters in both the 2012 and 2010 elections. The comparison will be from the Wall Street Journal Exit Polls. The table will show the percentage of respondents who are from each age cohort and how they voted. Comparing these two elections is important since 2010 was a disaster for Democrats, much as the election this month was a catastrophe for the GOP.

Comparing 2012 and 2010 Exit Polls: Age and Vote Choice
Age 2012 Voter Percentage 2012 Mitt Romney (R) 2012 Barack Obama (D) 2010 Voter Percentage 2010 Republican (R) 2010 Democratic (D)
18-24 11% 36% 60% 5% 38% 58%

25-29 8% 38% 60% 6% 42% 56%

30-39 17% 42% 55% 13% 48% 49%

40-49 20% 50% 48% 19% 53% 45%

50-64 28% 51% 47% 34% 51% 47%

65+ 17% 55% 44% 24% 57% 41%

So, it turns out that voters didn’t so much change their minds; instead, different people voted in the two elections. In 2010, less that 25% of votes were cast by people younger than 40. Two years later, these same groups made up 36% of voters. These younger voters were the biggest sources of Democratic support. People 50 and older supported Republicans in both elections. The problem for the GOP is that this group made up a much smaller share of the electorate in 2012.

There are a number of reasons that people aged 50 and older voted in the midterm election. People in this age group are more likely to think that they have more at stake in elections. They’ve paid taxes for longer, and generally have higher incomes than younger voters. It also seems that, while older voters were educated to believe that it is part of their civic duty to vote in elections, for younger people, they only have to vote every four years to satisfy this.

So, this table seems to indicate that the Republicans are in better shape in the midterm elections of 2014 than people assume. Their voters will always turn out; the Democratic ones will only vote if rock stars remind them to go to the polls.

Finally, if the GOP intends to continue their silly voter ID law obsession, which they apparently will, there is an easy solution. Remove people from the voter rolls if they don’t vote once every two years.