Post-election studies find increased turnout in democrat constituencies this year, but less than optimal Republican. In other words, the democrats maxed out their potential votes, but we didn’t. In another year, when the Republican candidate is an articulate and firmly principled conservative, and when the democrats haven’t got a pop star with special constituency appeal to one particular democrat bloc, respective turnouts are going to be different.
By one estimate …, some 131.2 million Americans cast ballots for president this time around, or 61.6 percent of eligible voters. That’s a high turnout, to be sure, and represents a 1.5-percentage-point increase over the 60.1 percent turnout rate of 2004, according to Michael McDonald, a professor of government at George Mason University who tracks voting.
But it’s still below the 62.5 percent rate from 1968, and falls far short of the 65.7 percent record set in 1908 — a record that earlier this year, McDonald suggested Americans just might approach.
Some have seized on the absence of more dramatic increases as evidence that this year’s voter surge was just another overhyped media myth. A closer look at the data, however, suggests plenty of historic trends. Turnout increased most sharply for certain blocs — especially 18-to-29-year-olds, African-Americans and Latinos. Turnout also surged more in certain regions of the country, such as the South. And there’s evidence that some GOP voters simply stayed home — driving down overall turnout.
“It is going to put a ceiling on your turnout if you only get one side to vote,” said Peter Levine, director of Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or CIRCLE.
Among other explanations, GOP nominee John McCain does not appear to have put together as formidable a ground operation as George W. Bush did in 2004. Whereas 24 percent of voters told exit pollsters they had been contacted by the Bush campaign four years ago, only 18 percent said the same of McCain this year, noted McDonald. By contrast, 26 percent of voters said they’d heard from President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign, the same percentage as reported contacts from Democratic nominee John Kerry’s team four years ago.
“It looks as though the McCain campaign did not do as good job of doing voter mobilization as the Bush campaign did in 2004,” McDonald said. “It might explain why Republican turnout seemed to be down in this election, particularly if we look at some of these battleground states.”
Hat tip to Daniel Lowenstein.