News Bureau | University of Illinois

NewsBureauillinois
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign logo

Archives

2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008
Email to a friend envelope icon for send to a friend

Voter turnout in Tuesday's election unlikely to have been higher than in 1992

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor
217-333-2177; andreal@illinois.edu

11/3/2004

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Despite the widespread assumption that voter turnout was substantially higher in the 2004 presidential election than it was in the 2000 election, “the numbers suggest a different story,” says Scott Althaus, a professor of speech communication and political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who conducts research on the effects of presidential campaigns.

According to vote totals as of 10 a.m. CST today, between 51 and 52 percent of voting-age Americans cast votes in Tuesday’s presidential election. In the 2000 presidential election, by contrast, 51.2 percent of the voting-age population cast ballots, as reported by the U.S. Census.

When turnout rates are compared for battleground and non-battleground states, “a clear pattern emerges,” Althaus said.
“Provisional estimates for the battleground states – Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – show a combined turnout of 60 percent of voting-age Americans, compared with a combined turnout of 49 percent in all of the other states.”

For the 2004 voting-age population totals, Althaus used data from the U.S. Elections Project at George Mason University. For votes cast in the 2004 presidential race, he used data from C-SPAN and CNN available as of 10 a.m. CST today.
These numbers don’t include absentee ballots yet to be counted, or provisional ballots yet to be validated, Althaus cautioned.

“If preliminary estimates of 120 million total votes prove accurate, the final turnout rate for the voting-age population could reach 54 percent. In comparison, since the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1972, the highest level of recorded turnout was registered in 1992, when 55 percent of the voting-age population cast ballots.”

Recalculating these numbers using “eligible voters” – which excludes non-citizens and non-eligible felons, rather than voting-age population – Althaus found that 56 percent of eligible voters cast a vote in Tuesday’s presidential election, compared with 54.2 percent in the 2000 election.

“If preliminary estimates of 120 million votes prove accurate, the final turnout rate among eligible voters could reach 59 percent,” Althaus said. “In comparison, since the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1972, the highest level of recorded turnout was registered in 1992, when 61 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.”

When turnout rates are compared for battleground and non-battleground states, a clear pattern still emerges using the vote-eligible standards.

“Provisional estimates for the battleground states show a combined turnout of 65 percent of eligible voters, compared with a combined turnout of 55 percent of eligible voters in all of the other states.”