November 7th, 2008
05:00 PM ET
6 years ago

Record turnout?

Turnout was nearly the same as in 2004.
Turnout was nearly the same as in 2004.

(CNN) - Was there a record turnout in the election?

Of Democrats, yes. Of all voters, not so much.

We expected to see amazingly high voter turnout in this election.

Was there?

Just over 208 million voting-age American citizens were eligible to vote this year. Just over 187 million were registered to vote. Edison Media Research estimates that a total of just over 130 million actually voted for President, either in person or by mail. That's over 62 percent of all Americans eligible to vote. That's two points higher than four years ago. 2008 continues a steady trend of higher voter turnout since 1996. But it's not exactly a quantum leap.

The Center for the Study of the American Elecotrate Explains it this way."A downturn in the number and percentage of Republican voters going to the polls seemed to be the primary explanation for the lower-than-predicted turnout. . . . The long lines at the polls were mostly populated by Democrats."

According to the exit polls, the African-American share of the vote did go up slightly, from 11 percent in 2004 to 13 percent in 2008. The white share declined a few points and Latinos stayed the same.

The share of young voters went up by one percentage point. The share of new voters stayed the same.

But there was a noticeable shift by party. Democrats went from 37 percent of voters in 2004 to 40 percent this year. Independents also went up. Republicans declined from 37 to 32. All consistent with pre-election polls that showed Democrats excited and Republicans demoralized.

Something else failed to happen - the so-called "Bradley effect," where voters tell pollsters they intend to vote for an African-American candidate and then don't.

There is no evidence that people were lying to pollsters.

The CNN poll taken by the Opinion Research Corporation just before the election showed Barack Obama getting 53 percent of the vote and John McCain 46 percent. That is exactly what they got.

CNN and Time's pre-election poll, also conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, showed Obama winning Florida, the biggest battleground state, by four points. Obama won Florida by three.

The pre-election poll predicted Obama would carry Ohio by four. He did.

The story of this election was not so much a huge surge of new voters as it was a huge surge of Democratic enthusiasm. And Republican defeatism.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (105 Responses)
  1. voter

    It is not important whether there was a record turnout. It was nice to see so many people wait in line for 4-10 hours to cast their vote. It was good to see democracy.

    November 7, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  2. FreeNLovIt

    Once upon a time, my political science teacher told us that it's good to have apathy voters. Since they dont care about politics, we dont have crazy riots like other countries.

    November 7, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  3. Shari, NY

    Oh, it does not matter now! My candidate won and I am a proud mutt. United we stand – divided we fall!

    November 7, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  4. Pua, HI

    Interesting...

    November 7, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  5. Hopeful for Tomorrow

    Record turn out or not, this was by far the most memorable election I have ever voted in. When I was eligible to vote in 2000, neither of the candidates attracted attention the way McCain and Obama did. Same goes for 2004. Both candidates earned such loyalty and respect from their supporters to an unbelievable level.

    November 7, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  6. Truth Hurts

    The lack of republican turnout and the bad stock market is why the democrats managed to barely win.

    Truth Hurts.

    November 7, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  7. Jack

    Of course Democrats turned out in record numbers after looking at our 401K returns and looking at the debt piled on by the republicans we all knew we needed change.

    November 7, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  8. Lisa

    The republicans didn't come out to vote because they knew their candidate was a sure loser.

    November 7, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  9. independent now

    THIS STUDY SHOWS A RECORD NUMBER OF DEMS VOTED FOR PRESIDENT, BUT DOES NOT SAY IF THEY ONLY VOTED FOR PRESIDENT, AND LEFT THE REST OF THE BALLOT BLANK. DID THEY?

    November 7, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  10. Truth Hurts

    The republican machine was kept in the garage this election. The backlash against the OBama Street Fighting Political Machine, and the Rotten Congress starring Harry Reid and Nancy Puglosi will ensure that the Republicans will win by default next time.

    November 7, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  11. Vegas Barbie for Obama

    And that high Dem turnout paid off with a great President, thank goodness!

    November 7, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  12. Vegas Barbie for Obama

    ..or rather it paid off in the ELECTION of a great President! While he isn't in office yet, I wish he was, but I am glad he has this time to put together an awesome transition team!

    November 7, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  13. Jesse

    I would really like to see the differences between new voters of 2008 and 2004.

    November 7, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  14. Gene

    That's because the republicans weren't very enthusiastic about getting out and voting... With their ticket, who can blame them?

    November 7, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  15. petre

    Excited because of Obama

    November 7, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  16. Doug Hughes

    GOP – RIP

    November 7, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  17. Faye Heydasch

    The best and brightest dogs I have had been Mutts, so I am proud and happy that you are our President-Elect........the best and the brightest!!!!!.I have high hopes for America!!!! Congratulations!!!!!

    November 7, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  18. paul (staunch Moderate)

    I don't know what would make the rest of the registered folks get up off their butts. They are the portion of the country who feel their "vote won't count or make a difference."

    As was evidenced in a number of razor close races this election cycle nothing could be further from the truth.

    I got a few folks to register and vote by simply telling them they have no right to complain if they did not vote.

    November 7, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  19. IowaMom

    Truth Hurts:

    Gees give it a freaking rest today. All that negativity is not good for the soul.

    November 7, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  20. Uh huh

    That's a shame. So why is it that Republicans felt defeated before they ever went to the polls? Maybe we could ask MSNBC, CBS, CNN, NBC, the newspapers in this nation and so on. Maybe it was because nearly everyone was saying nothing good about McCain while touting Obama as the next savior and quoting the most misguided polls they could find. Ya think? I'm really glad to see that, contrary to what Obama kept telling people about how everyone was going to play the race card (of course, he ended up being the only one who did), nobody but african americans voted by race. Good for all of us. Now the hard part – if he follows through on what he promised, the nation could go belly up. If he doesn't – all those people who voted for him based on his "promises" are going to be legitimately upset. Sooner or later, every liar's lies catch up to them.

    November 7, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  21. Chula

    If this article is true.....and lately I have trouble believing the media.

    However, let's pretend it's true....then the Republicans have only themselves for losing.....had they turned out to vote. .....McCain would have won.

    November 7, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  22. Rob Johnson

    As demographic trends continue to favor the Democrats in the years to come, look for this gap to widen.

    Think about it: Everyone in the USA who is currently between the ages of 14 and 17 will be voting for the first time in 2012. Who do you think they will vote for? I'll give you a hint, his first name is Barack.

    Not to mention the growing slice of the demographic pie occupied by Hispanic voters, who went heavily Democratic this year, and the growing interest in politics among African Americans, who clearly went overwhelmingly for Obama.

    Last but not least, give Obama the unparalleled PR resources of the office of the Presidency, and watch the results. With his charisma, speaking ability and youthful good looks, in 4 years he will have people ready to elect him Emperor For Life, or even World Overlord.

    Any Republican who didn't like this year's results better get ready for an even worse defeat in 2012, especially if they are actually foolish enough to nominate Sarah Palin.

    November 7, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  23. Ricardo

    This is no surprise to me – as the republican party seems to have lost what it stands for – A party, and an administration, cannot continue to say it is for fiscal responsibility while at the same time spending more in contemporary times, than at any other in history. A party cannot continue to say it is for less government intervention, and then get involved in such social issues as abortion, gay rights, gay marriage and stem cell research. Government cannot continue to police morality and govern according the religious doctrine of a select few and not expect to offend others.

    November 7, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  24. Mark

    All those yay-hoos out there that failed to vote, guess what: by failing to exercise your right to vote, you also lost your privilege to complain.

    McCain could be the guy standing in front of the sign that says "Office of the President Elect" (boy, if that isn't arrogance – as if we didn't know who the guy behind the podium is), but the conservatives decided that they would let others do their heavy lifting.

    Oh well, we'll see in four years if another trillion in deficit spending, threats to your 401Ks and IRAs, and at least two efforts to amend the Constitution can't get people off their duffs.

    November 7, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  25. Denise Groves

    As long as Obama won, it matters not

    November 7, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
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