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Is High Voter turnout only benefiting the Democratic Party an old wives tale?

I have been embroiled in a debate about high voter turnout always helping the Democratic Party. I’ve stated that it was nothing more than an old wives tale. But had nothing to back my stance up. So here is the research result on that. I decided to share it without you all to find out what you think. I used VAP since VEP was only kept track of beginning in 1980.



Average voter turnout since 1960 in presidential elections 55%.

2020 62% high Biden winner

2016 55% average, Trump winner

2012 53% low, Obama winner

2008 57% high, Obama winner

2004 56% high, G.W. Bush winner

2000 51% low, G.W. Bush winner

1996 49% low, Bill Clinton winner

1992 55% average, Bill Clinton winner

1988 50% low, G.H.W. Bush winner

1984 53% low, Reagan winner

1980 53% low, Reagan winner

1976 53% low, Carter winner

1972 55% average Nixon winner

1968 61% high Nixon winner

1964 61% LBJ winner

1960 63% JFK winner



4 Democratic and 2 Republican winners when there was a high voter turnout, above average. 4 Democratic and 3 Republican winners when the voter turnout was low or below average. 1 Democrat and 2 republican winners when the voter turnout was average. Presidential wise, I see little difference between high and low voter turnout.



Midterm House elections. The average turnout for midterms is 40%

2018 50% high, Democrats gained 44 seats

2014 38% low, Republicans gained 8 seats

2010 42% high, Republicans gained 63 seats

2006 38% low, Democrats gained 33 seats

2002 40% average, Republicans gained 8 seats

1998 37% low, Democrats gained 3 seats

1994 42% high, Republicans gained 54 seats

1990 38% low, Democrats gained 7 seats

1986 38% low, democrats gained 5 seats

1982 43% high, democrats gained 27 seats

1978 39% low, Republicans gained 7 seats

1974 39% low, Democrats gained 39 seats

1970 48% high, Democrats gained 12 seats

1966 47% high, Republicans gained 47 seats

1962 46% high, republicans gained 4 seats



I still don’t see a correlation between high and low turnout benefiting one or the other party. What I see is when the house changed hands, control 1994, 2010 and 2018, turnout was high. But in 2006 when the democrats took control of the house with a net gain of 33 seats, turnout was low. Finally, I looked back at gains of one party or the other of 30 or more seats to compare that to voter turnout in the midterms.



2018 50% high, Democrats gained 44 seats

2010 42% high, Republicans gained 63 seats

2006 38% low, Democrats gained 33 seats

1994 42% high, Republicans gained 54 seats

1974 39% low, Democrats gained 39 seats

1966 47% high, Republicans gained 47 seats



4 with high voter turnout, 2 with low voter turnout. Interesting to note that in 3 of the 4 high voter turnout midterm elections, it was the republicans who gained 30 or more seats vs. 1 for the Democrats. The two elections that had low voter turnout, the democrats picked up 30 plus seats in both of those.



My conclusion, high voter turnout only benefiting the Democratic Party is an old wives tale that we all had bought into.
 

cpwill

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I heard a similar analysis by Jim Geharty, but, it didn't come with this level of supporting data. Thank you for going through and breaking it down like that.

I remain dedicated to reducing the voting pool, but, my argument has always been that we should do so not because Democrats are terrible, but because People are terrible. But it's good to have the data.
 

Perotista

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I heard a similar analysis by Jim Geharty, but, it didn't come with this level of supporting data. Thank you for going through and breaking it down like that.

I remain dedicated to reducing the voting pool, but, my argument has always been that we should do so not because Democrats are terrible, but because People are terrible. But it's good to have the data.
I've heard the same arguments, but perhaps in a different context. The context was between people voting issues and people voting personality, charisma, likability/dislike, folks not paying attention to the issues, just voting their feelings on which candidate they like. People who pay little to no attention to politics until around election time. The discussion was really about independents or as the person I was talking to called them, coach potatoes.

The argument was the more people that vote, the less they know about the issues and politics in general. The more people that really don't care, but vote on whims and personality or in the case of my wife, who looks the most presidential. Your argument isn't new. It's has been put forth by those on both side of the aisle. Usually those who are the more extremist, left and or right.

It's also interesting that in high voter turnout, independents go to the polls much more than normal while the two parties base remain relatively the same percentage when comparing party affiliation vs. those who voted. independents sent the democrats reeling because they were angry at Bill Clinton and the Democrats in 1994, high indie turnout. Mad at Hillary's secret health care commission, mad at their taxes being raised especially when it came to seniors. The amount of federal income tax social security could be taxed was raised from 50% to 85%, Seniors vote.

2010 was the ACA independents were mad at. The ACA was opposed by an average of 55-40 and they voted against the Democrats for pushing the ACA through when they didn't want it. Another high independent turnout.

2006 was different, independents weren't angry. But the Democratic base had an exception high turnout whereas Republican sat on their butt.

2018 Independents again had an exceptional turnout, their dislike of Trump drove them to the polls to vote for the Democratic congressional candidates. It wasn't issues or legislation this time that drove independents. Just their dislike of Trump. More personality based, not issue based. Actually that carried over into 2020. Very high independent turnout to vote against Trump.

I'd say in the years when there was high voter turnout, it seems something made independents angry at the party in power, hence they turned out in higher numbers than usual. Being angry at something made independents get off the coach and go vote when normally they wouldn't.
 
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I have been embroiled in a debate about high voter turnout always helping the Democratic Party. I’ve stated that it was nothing more than an old wives tale. But had nothing to back my stance up. So here is the research result on that. I decided to share it without you all to find out what you think. I used VAP since VEP was only kept track of beginning in 1980.



Average voter turnout since 1960 in presidential elections 55%.

2020 62% high Biden winner

2016 55% average, Trump winner

2012 53% low, Obama winner

2008 57% high, Obama winner

2004 56% high, G.W. Bush winner

2000 51% low, G.W. Bush winner

1996 49% low, Bill Clinton winner

1992 55% average, Bill Clinton winner

1988 50% low, G.H.W. Bush winner

1984 53% low, Reagan winner

1980 53% low, Reagan winner

1976 53% low, Carter winner

1972 55% average Nixon winner

1968 61% high Nixon winner

1964 61% LBJ winner

1960 63% JFK winner



4 Democratic and 2 Republican winners when there was a high voter turnout, above average. 4 Democratic and 3 Republican winners when the voter turnout was low or below average. 1 Democrat and 2 republican winners when the voter turnout was average. Presidential wise, I see little difference between high and low voter turnout.



Midterm House elections. The average turnout for midterms is 40%

2018 50% high, Democrats gained 44 seats

2014 38% low, Republicans gained 8 seats

2010 42% high, Republicans gained 63 seats

2006 38% low, Democrats gained 33 seats

2002 40% average, Republicans gained 8 seats

1998 37% low, Democrats gained 3 seats

1994 42% high, Republicans gained 54 seats

1990 38% low, Democrats gained 7 seats

1986 38% low, democrats gained 5 seats

1982 43% high, democrats gained 27 seats

1978 39% low, Republicans gained 7 seats

1974 39% low, Democrats gained 39 seats

1970 48% high, Democrats gained 12 seats

1966 47% high, Republicans gained 47 seats

1962 46% high, republicans gained 4 seats



I still don’t see a correlation between high and low turnout benefiting one or the other party. What I see is when the house changed hands, control 1994, 2010 and 2018, turnout was high. But in 2006 when the democrats took control of the house with a net gain of 33 seats, turnout was low. Finally, I looked back at gains of one party or the other of 30 or more seats to compare that to voter turnout in the midterms.



2018 50% high, Democrats gained 44 seats

2010 42% high, Republicans gained 63 seats

2006 38% low, Democrats gained 33 seats

1994 42% high, Republicans gained 54 seats

1974 39% low, Democrats gained 39 seats

1966 47% high, Republicans gained 47 seats



4 with high voter turnout, 2 with low voter turnout. Interesting to note that in 3 of the 4 high voter turnout midterm elections, it was the republicans who gained 30 or more seats vs. 1 for the Democrats. The two elections that had low voter turnout, the democrats picked up 30 plus seats in both of those.



My conclusion, high voter turnout only benefiting the Democratic Party is an old wives tale that we all had bought into.
Good post. I too have always believed that higher turnout benefits democrats. Could turnout be more issue oriented than we thought?
 

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I still don’t see a correlation between high and low turnout benefiting one or the other party.
That's because there is no correlation, and no causal link.

This myth is decades old (two of the articles linked below are from the 80s), and is likely based in the racist anti-democratic impulse of the right wing.

Some additional evidence and discussion....




The same goes for absentee voting:

 

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Good post. I too have always believed that higher turnout benefits democrats. Could turnout be more issue oriented than we thought?
Perhaps, depending on how one looks at it. Anger and resentfulness are big, but that is usually caused by those in power peeving off those who usually don't vote off, we tend to call them independents. What they get mad it is usually legislation or something that happens that goes against what what they wanted. One party or the going too far one way or the other or a piece of legislature those independents were totally against pushed through congress anyway.

Sometimes it could be as mundane as these folks think one party has just became too powerful and they want some balance restored. Other times it is very specific on an issue or legislation. Each election is different. Certainly 1994 and 2010 was issue based. 2018 and 2020 more of a dislike of the person and party in charge.
 

Perotista

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That's because there is no correlation, and no causal link.

This myth is decades old (two of the articles linked below are from the 80s), and is likely based in the racist anti-democratic impulse of the right wing.

Some additional evidence and discussion....




The same goes for absentee voting:

I think if something gets repeated enough, people tend to come to believe it. I read a couple of those articles you posted long ago, which did get me wondering about high voter turnout always benefiting the Democrats. Then a discussion about it which led to my research in it.
 

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A lot of trump supporters were Democrats at one time. The working class people.
 

Perotista

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A lot of trump supporters were Democrats at one time. The working class people.
Yes, some at least. The working class has the feeling of being ignored by the Democratic Party these days. The GOP has always ignored them. But at one time the Democratic Party was the working man's party, the Republican Party, the party of business. I think the Democratic Party has become too invested in social issues and as a result, the working man was forgotten. Where in 2016, the democrats were too busy talking about which bathroom a transgender could use, Trump was in Wisconsin and Michigan talking jobs. So what does Biden do once he takes office, he does away with the jobs on building the wall, on the Keystone pipeline on drilling for oil in Alaska. Other political priorities has replaced emphasis on the working man.

I have nothing to back this up, but perhaps Trump's emphasis on jobs and the working man is one reason he received 12% of the black last year. The last Republican presidential candidate to receive more than 12% of the black vote was Ford back in 1976 who received 15%. Maybe that's why Trump received 32% of the Hispanic vote while being painted racist by the democrats. If you're a working man, you want to work regardless of race. Like I said, I've nothing to back that up, just a shot in the dark. But perhaps it maybe a reason.
 

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I have been embroiled in a debate about high voter turnout always helping the Democratic Party. I’ve stated that it was nothing more than an old wives tale. But had nothing to back my stance up. So here is the research result on that. I decided to share it without you all to find out what you think. I used VAP since VEP was only kept track of beginning in 1980.



Average voter turnout since 1960 in presidential elections 55%.

2020 62% high Biden winner

2016 55% average, Trump winner

2012 53% low, Obama winner

2008 57% high, Obama winner

2004 56% high, G.W. Bush winner

2000 51% low, G.W. Bush winner

1996 49% low, Bill Clinton winner

1992 55% average, Bill Clinton winner

1988 50% low, G.H.W. Bush winner

1984 53% low, Reagan winner

1980 53% low, Reagan winner

1976 53% low, Carter winner

1972 55% average Nixon winner

1968 61% high Nixon winner

1964 61% LBJ winner

1960 63% JFK winner



4 Democratic and 2 Republican winners when there was a high voter turnout, above average. 4 Democratic and 3 Republican winners when the voter turnout was low or below average. 1 Democrat and 2 republican winners when the voter turnout was average. Presidential wise, I see little difference between high and low voter turnout.



Midterm House elections. The average turnout for midterms is 40%

2018 50% high, Democrats gained 44 seats

2014 38% low, Republicans gained 8 seats

2010 42% high, Republicans gained 63 seats

2006 38% low, Democrats gained 33 seats

2002 40% average, Republicans gained 8 seats

1998 37% low, Democrats gained 3 seats

1994 42% high, Republicans gained 54 seats

1990 38% low, Democrats gained 7 seats

1986 38% low, democrats gained 5 seats

1982 43% high, democrats gained 27 seats

1978 39% low, Republicans gained 7 seats

1974 39% low, Democrats gained 39 seats

1970 48% high, Democrats gained 12 seats

1966 47% high, Republicans gained 47 seats

1962 46% high, republicans gained 4 seats



I still don’t see a correlation between high and low turnout benefiting one or the other party. What I see is when the house changed hands, control 1994, 2010 and 2018, turnout was high. But in 2006 when the democrats took control of the house with a net gain of 33 seats, turnout was low. Finally, I looked back at gains of one party or the other of 30 or more seats to compare that to voter turnout in the midterms.



2018 50% high, Democrats gained 44 seats

2010 42% high, Republicans gained 63 seats

2006 38% low, Democrats gained 33 seats

1994 42% high, Republicans gained 54 seats

1974 39% low, Democrats gained 39 seats

1966 47% high, Republicans gained 47 seats



4 with high voter turnout, 2 with low voter turnout. Interesting to note that in 3 of the 4 high voter turnout midterm elections, it was the republicans who gained 30 or more seats vs. 1 for the Democrats. The two elections that had low voter turnout, the democrats picked up 30 plus seats in both of those.



My conclusion, high voter turnout only benefiting the Democratic Party is an old wives tale that we all had bought into.
1622853821741.png
 

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4 Democratic and 2 Republican winners when there was a high voter turnout, above average. 4 Democratic and 3 Republican winners when the voter turnout was low or below average. 1 Democrat and 2 republican winners when the voter turnout was average. Presidential wise, I see little difference between high and low voter turnout.

What I see is when the house changed hands, control 1994, 2010 and 2018, turnout was high. But in 2006 when the democrats took control of the house with a net gain of 33 seats, turnout was low. Finally, I looked back at gains of one party or the other of 30 or more seats to compare that to voter turnout in the midterms.

My conclusion, high voter turnout only benefiting the Democratic Party is an old wives tale that we all had bought into.

Good numbers and thanks for taking the time. What these numbers tell me is when there's higher turnout the incumbents are disadvantaged, D or R. Even at the end of a presidents two terms, his party and nominated successor are still the de facto incumbent in the WH even though he's leaving. In mid terms it's simpler: the incumbent party is whichever held the majority until the election.

Simple lesson from democracies the world over: high turnout means people want change.

And this is the lesson I dare say that the GOP is basing its voter suppression efforts on. Once in power, lower turnout benefits the incumbent. It's not that Dems 'always' win when there's higher turnout, it's just that to an incumbent R, next time it'll be the Dems 'turn'. They seek to stop this by limiting turnout - effectively they only want to be elected once and have no more pesky do overs every four years.

So it's not that 'higher' voter turnout harms the GOP, but that voter turnout, period, is undesirable once they are in a position to stop it.
 

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Good numbers and thanks for taking the time. What these numbers tell me is when there's higher turnout the incumbents are disadvantaged, D or R. Even at the end of a presidents two terms, his party and nominated successor are still the de facto incumbent in the WH even though he's leaving. In mid terms it's simpler: the incumbent party is whichever held the majority until the election.

Simple lesson from democracies the world over: high turnout means people want change.

And this is the lesson I dare say that the GOP is basing its voter suppression efforts on. Once in power, lower turnout benefits the incumbent. It's not that Dems 'always' win when there's higher turnout, it's just that to an incumbent R, next time it'll be the Dems 'turn'. They seek to stop this by limiting turnout - effectively they only want to be elected once and have no more pesky do overs every four years.

So it's not that 'higher' voter turnout harms the GOP, but that voter turnout, period, is undesirable once they are in a position to stop it.
That's an angle I never thought of. Yes, high voter turnout is mainly because the people want change and whatever party is in power at the time is in trouble. This voter suppression efforts on the behalf of the GOP will, in my opinion hurt them in the long run. They're not in power now, it would be to their advantage to want as many people to vote who want change as possible. Shooting themselves in the foot is a phrase that comes to mind.

I thank you for pointing that out. That's what I love about this site, you can learn something new everyday.
 

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I still don’t see a correlation between high and low turnout benefiting one or the other party.
Your numbers don't seem particularly accurate. Going to need a citation. Your inclusion of pre-80's numbers are also suspect.
 

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I have been embroiled in a debate about high voter turnout always helping the Democratic Party. I’ve stated that it was nothing more than an old wives tale. But had nothing to back my stance up. So here is the research result on that. I decided to share it without you all to find out what you think. I used VAP since VEP was only kept track of beginning in 1980.
----
I still don’t see a correlation between high and low turnout benefiting one or the other party. What I see is when the house changed hands, control 1994, 2010 and 2018, turnout was high. But in 2006 when the democrats took control of the house with a net gain of 33 seats, turnout was low. Finally, I looked back at gains of one party or the other of 30 or more seats to compare that to voter turnout in the midterms.
----
4 with high voter turnout, 2 with low voter turnout. Interesting to note that in 3 of the 4 high voter turnout midterm elections, it was the republicans who gained 30 or more seats vs. 1 for the Democrats. The two elections that had low voter turnout, the democrats picked up 30 plus seats in both of those.
My conclusion, high voter turnout only benefiting the Democratic Party is an old wives tale that we all had bought into.
I've always believed that higher voter turnout was a factor that leaned toward the Democrats, but never that the high voter turnout was the only factor in election outcomes. It may only contribute 60% toward an outcome - it may only contribute 10% toward an outcome - but there are always other factors.

What % of the electorate are actually voting against a candidate, rather than for a candidate, is a factor.
Being at war is a factor.
Incumbency is a factor.
Etc, etc.

Also, I think you'll find that the origin of the "higher turnout conventional wisdom" dates back to a time when there were many more registered Democrats than there were registered Republicans. That factor, alone, would account for those impressions.
 

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I've always believed that higher voter turnout was a factor that leaned toward the Democrats, but never that the high voter turnout was the only factor in election outcomes. It may only contribute 60% toward an outcome - it may only contribute 10% toward an outcome - but there are always other factors.

What % of the electorate are actually voting against a candidate, rather than for a candidate, is a factor.
Being at war is a factor.
Incumbency is a factor.
Etc, etc.

Also, I think you'll find that the origin of the "higher turnout conventional wisdom" dates back to a time when there were many more registered Democrats than there were registered Republicans. That factor, alone, would account for those impressions.O

I've always believed that higher voter turnout was a factor that leaned toward the Democrats, but never that the high voter turnout was the only factor in election outcomes. It may only contribute 60% toward an outcome - it may only contribute 10% toward an outcome - but there are always other factors.

What % of the electorate are actually voting against a candidate, rather than for a candidate, is a factor.
Being at war is a factor.
Incumbency is a factor.
Etc, etc.

Also, I think you'll find that the origin of the "higher turnout conventional wisdom" dates back to a time when there were many more registered Democrats than there were registered Republicans. That factor, alone, would account for those impressions.
Someone else saw a correlation when voters were angry that resulted in higher voter turnout. At which party, it didn't matter. here.
2020 62% high Biden winner voters angry at Trump
2018 50% high, Democrats gained 44 seats Dislike of Trump
2010 42% high, Republicans gained 63 seats Anger at the Democrats for the ACA when an average of 55% of American opposed it at the time.
2008 57% high, Obama winner recession and the wars.
1994 42% high, Republicans gained 54 seats Independents angry at the tax increase and the secret Hillary Clinton health care commission.

So it does seem anger feeds voter turnout against the party they're angry at.
 
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High voter turnout in a 2-party System like the US benefits both parties, because it creates a polarizing environment and activates previously low-information non-voters.

Nowadays, with the Democrats being more the party of educated, suburban and urban voters and Republicans being more the party of rural, uneducated voters - it can be argued that Trump and Rs benefitted even more than Dems from a surge in turnout in several workingclass states, because they brought new low-information workingclass voters to the fold.
 

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Just wanna throw this out there. Iirc, in such a discussion, someone pointed to local and state results to bolster national results in support of the rather accepted claim.
 

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Just wanna throw this out there. Iirc, in such a discussion, someone pointed to local and state results to bolster national results in support of the rather accepted claim.
High voter turnout in a 2-party System like the US benefits both parties, because it creates a polarizing environment and activates previously low-information non-voters.

Nowadays, with the Democrats being more the party of educated, suburban and urban voters and Republicans being more the party of rural, uneducated voters - it can be argued that Trump and Rs benefitted even more than Dems from a surge in turnout in several workingclass states, because they brought new low-information workingclass voters to the fold.
I've thought about both. I think when dealing with the midterms, anger and dissatisfaction is the key there. Especially for independents and the opposing party causing them to turnout higher than norm. These midterms had high voter turnout, 2018 anger at Trump. the Democrats took control of congress, 2010 anger at Obama and the Democrats, 63 house democrats went down to defeat, 1994, anger at Bill Clinton and the Democratic congress, the GOP gained 54 house seats and took control of congress. They won the house for the first time in 40 years.

We know Trump was the driving factor for 2020's extra high voter turnout in a presidential election. Be that anger at him or those who loved him. We had high turnout in 2008, anger at G.W. Bush along with a very appealing Democratic candidate in Obama.

The problem there is that there's many exceptions to the above. Now many presidents who won big had huge coat tails bringing along new representatives and senators that normally wouldn't have won without those coat tails.

Biden had no coat tails whatsoever. Making him only the second president in our history to win the popular vote via the presidency and lose house seats. Cleveland in 1884 was the only other. How can someone win by 7 million plus votes and lose 13 house seats, not have any coat tails? Obama had coat tails in 2008 bringing with him 23 new house members and 8 senators. G.W. Bush had none in 2000. Bill Clinton didn't either in 1992 nor G.H.W. Bush in 1988. But Reagan did, 34 house members and 12 new Republican senators.

Now G.W. Bush didn't win the popular vote, Obama won by 8 points, Bill Clinton by 6 points, G.H.W. Bush won by 8 points, Reagan by 10. Biden won by a little over 4 points. I suppose I'm throwing things out there looking for help.
 

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I've thought about both. I think when dealing with the midterms, anger and dissatisfaction is the key there. Especially for independents and the opposing party causing them to turnout higher than norm. These midterms had high voter turnout, 2018 anger at Trump. the Democrats took control of congress, 2010 anger at Obama and the Democrats, 63 house democrats went down to defeat, 1994, anger at Bill Clinton and the Democratic congress, the GOP gained 54 house seats and took control of congress. They won the house for the first time in 40 years.

We know Trump was the driving factor for 2020's extra high voter turnout in a presidential election. Be that anger at him or those who loved him. We had high turnout in 2008, anger at G.W. Bush along with a very appealing Democratic candidate in Obama.

The problem there is that there's many exceptions to the above. Now many presidents who won big had huge coat tails bringing along new representatives and senators that normally wouldn't have won without those coat tails.

Biden had no coat tails whatsoever. Making him only the second president in our history to win the popular vote via the presidency and lose house seats. Cleveland in 1884 was the only other. How can someone win by 7 million plus votes and lose 13 house seats, not have any coat tails? Obama had coat tails in 2008 bringing with him 23 new house members and 8 senators. G.W. Bush had none in 2000. Bill Clinton didn't either in 1992 nor G.H.W. Bush in 1988. But Reagan did, 34 house members and 12 new Republican senators.

Now G.W. Bush didn't win the popular vote, Obama won by 8 points, Bill Clinton by 6 points, G.H.W. Bush won by 8 points, Reagan by 10. Biden won by a little over 4 points. I suppose I'm throwing things out there looking for help.

I wouldn't know where to begin a cross-section of state and local results, but some semblance of those numbers could shed light on why the claim is commonly accepted.
 

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figures on Congressional, senators, governors, state legislatures are readily available. That is vote totals, percentages and who won. But not turnout. It would take a whole lot of research.
 
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figures on Congressional, senators, governors, state legislatures are readily available. That is vote totals, percentages and who won. But not turnout. It would take a whole lot of research.

It depends which measurement you are using for turnout:

Are you using the VAP (voting-age population) turnout, or the VEP (voting-eligible population) turnout ?

The VEP is of course the better measurement, because the VAP includes non-citizens who are not allowed to vote.

VEP turnout is also used internationally, so it would be easy to compare to other countries and their elections.

On the other hand, the 2020 Census in the US didn't enumerate non-citizens and it is only a guesstimate by the annual ACS (American Community Survey).

Here you can find turnout figures for the US and states for 2020 and earlier elections:


US 2020 turnout as a percentage of the VEP was 66.8% - the highest since 1908.

Minnesota traditionally has the highest turnout, in 2020 it was 80% of its VEP.

Oklahoma at 55% had the lowest turnout.

Austria for example had a turnout of 80% in our 2017 elections and 76% in our 2019 elections.
 

Perotista

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It depends which measurement you are using for turnout:

Are you using the VAP (voting-age population) turnout, or the VEP (voting-eligible population) turnout ?

The VEP is of course the better measurement, because the VAP includes non-citizens who are not allowed to vote.

VEP turnout is also used internationally, so it would be easy to compare to other countries and their elections.

On the other hand, the 2020 Census in the US didn't enumerate non-citizens and it is only a guesstimate by the annual ACS (American Community Survey).

Here you can find turnout figures for the US and states for 2020 and earlier elections:


US 2020 turnout as a percentage of the VEP was 66.8% - the highest since 1908.

Minnesota traditionally has the highest turnout, in 2020 it was 80% of its VEP.

Oklahoma at 55% had the lowest turnout.

Austria for example had a turnout of 80% in our 2017 elections and 76% in our 2019 elections.
VEP only came about after 1980 which makes it useful only in comparing elections after that time. VAP figures can be used to go back as far as one would like. As far back as 1828 anyway. VAP let's you compare any election between 1828 and 2020 while VEP is restricted to 1980-2020. For my purposes since I went back to 1960, VAP was the only alternative for an accurate comparison. Apples to Apples instead of apples to oranges which is what it would have been using VAP for 1960 and VEP for 2020. VAP 62.8 for 1960 vs. 62.0 for 2020. You can't compare 62.8 VAP 1960 to 2020 66.2 VEP and have an accurate comparison. Two different standards.
 
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VEP only came about after 1980 which makes it useful only in comparing elections after that time. VAP figures can be used to go back as far as one would like. As far back as 1828 anyway. VAP let's you compare any election between 1828 and 2020 while VEP is restricted to 1980-2020. For my purposes since I went back to 1960, VAP was the only alternative for an accurate comparison. Apples to Apples instead of apples to oranges which is what it would have been using VAP for 1960 and VEP for 2020. VAP 62.8 for 1960 vs. 62.0 for 2020. You can't compare 62.8 VAP 1960 to 2020 66.2 VEP and have an accurate comparison. Two different standards.

Correct.

But VEP is still the best option to compare turnouts now, both in the US and with other countries.

Even though only annual ACS data can be used to filter out the non-citizens.

Anyway, a lot of US states have low turnouts because they are non-competetive for decades such as OK or WV.

A lot of states also don't offer automatic voter registration or same-day registration like almost all European countries do.

Which leaves many potential voters out in the dark.

Most states have voter registration cutoff deadlines weeks ahead of an election, meaning late-deciding voters who are not registered can't vote ...
 
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