(CNN) – Republicans headed into a contentious general election fight with President Barack Obama may be facing an enthusiasm deficit: according to a new analysis, fewer Republicans have turned out for primaries in 2012 than in 2000 and 2008.
The report, released Thursday by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank, compiled turnout numbers from thirteen states – six that voted before this week, and seven that voted on Super Tuesday. Of all the states, eight saw turnout numbers fall from 2008. The five states with higher turnouts all held primaries allowing either independents or independents and Democrats to vote in the GOP contest.
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Taken as a whole, 7,846,172 Americans voted out of 68,125,000 eligible citizens, a turnout rate of 11.5%. That's a decrease from the 13.2% rate in the same states in 2008, and the 12.2% turnout rate in 2000.
Curtis Gans, an analyst behind the study, said the numbers reflected an enthusiasm drop for the GOP.
"I think we’ve seen it in the polls and essentially also seen it in the turnout numbers," Gans said. "There are different factions of enthusiasm - more establishment Republicans are enthusiastic about Romney, people on the right enthusiastic about Santorum and Gingrich. But overall the enthusiasm level isn’t what we saw in 2008."
States with the steepest drop in turnout were Virginia, which saw only two of the major candidates qualify for the GOP primary ballot, and Missouri, which held a non-binding primary February 7. Virginia had a turnout rate of 4.6%, a drop of nearly half since 2008. Missouri's turnout rate was 5.6%, down from 13.5% in 2008.
Other states whose turnout rate dropped were Massachusetts (7.8%, down from 10.9% in 2008); Tennessee (11.5%, down from 12.1% in 2008); Georgia (13.2%, down from 15% in 2008); Arizona (10.4%, down from 13.3% in 2008); and Oklahoma (10.5%, down from 12.6% in 2008).
Florida, which held a high-profile contest January 31, saw its turnout drop from 15.4% in 2008 to 12.4% in 2012. The Sunshine State moved up its GOP primary in a bid to gain greater influence over the nominating process, and the bitter fight between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich turned the race into a national spectacle.
States with the highest turnout were New Hampshire and South Carolina, both states with long histories of voting in the national spotlight. New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary saw 24.5% of eligible voters cast ballots, a higher turnout from 2008 but lower than 2000.
In South Carolina's first-in-the-South contest, 17.3% of eligible voters hit the polls. Like New Hampshire's turnout, that figure was higher than 2008 but lower than 2000.
Other contests that saw higher turnout in 2012 were Tuesday's Ohio primary, which was widely hyped as a key indicator of the 2012 race; Michigan, where the battle between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney grabbed national headlines; and Vermont, which went for Romney on Super Tuesday. Ohio, Michigan and Vermont had higher turnout in 2012 than 2008, but all three states were down from 2000.
The Bipartisan Policy Center didn't assess turnout figures for caucuses, since figures aren't easily available and sites for precinct caucuses change each cycle.