The simplest explanation for why a gentle blue wave washed over the country in the 2018 mid-terms is because over twice as many people who supported Donald Trump in 2016 voted Democrat in 2018 (8.3% of Trump voters switched) as people who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 voted Republican in 2018 (3.4% of Clinton voters switched).
The Cooperative Congressional Election Surveys drill down much deeper than election-day exit polls do and they allow full cross tabs for public research. The first place I looked to try to get a handle on why voters made the switches they did was in government spending. The results are… inconclusive:
Switchers didn’t differ much in their sentiments whether they went Republican-to-Democrat or Democrat-to-Republican, and with the exception of infrastructure spending that everybody says they really, really want, fell in between voters who stayed Republican or stayed Democrat.
It is worth noting that while the differences are small, voters who went for Clinton in 2016 and then for the GOP in 2018 were modestly but consistently more in favor of increasing government spending than voters who went with Trump in 2016 and then Democrat in 2018 were. The answers, to the extent they will be found, are in the trenches of the culture war.
Another thing worth noting is that support for small government is dead, even in an abstract sense like this where precision in who gets cut and how don’t have to be made. Rock-ribbed Republicans want less welfare, by which they mean government transfers to the poor–as opposed to the medical system, the law enforcement bureaucracy, affluent academia, or union construction contracts–but on everything else they, along with everyone else, wants more, more, more spending. Whoever controls the TreasureFed should go full bore on the things they and their supporters want until the dollar breaks. Use it because we’re going to lose it, and if you don’t, the other side will.
CCES variables used: CC18_317(1-2), CC18_412(1-2), CC18_426_1-5(1-2)(4-5)
Parenthetically, in 1997 The Simpsons graciously allowed the fraudulent Stephen J. Gould to admit that he was, in fact, a fraud: