November 6th, 2008
01:55 PM ET
10 years ago

Report: '08 turnout same as or only slightly higher than '04

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="North Carolina had the highest increase in voter turnout, according to a report released Thursday."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A new report from American University’s Center for the Study of the American Electorate concludes that voter turnout in Tuesday’s election was the same in percentage terms as it was four years ago - or at most has risen by less than 1 percent.

Click here to read the entire report.

The report released Thursday estimates that between 126.5 and 128.5 million Americans cast ballots in the presidential election earlier this week. Those figures represent 60.7 percent or, at most, 61.7 percent of those eligible to vote in the country.

“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 report said. Compared to 2004, Republican turnout declined by 1.3 percentage points to 28.7 percent, while Democratic turnout increased by 2.6 points from 28.7 percent in 2004 to 31.3 percent in 2008.

“Many people were fooled (including this student of politics although less so than many others) by this year’s increase in registration (more than 10 million added to the rolls), citizens’ willingness to stand for hours even in inclement weather to vote early, the likely rise in youth and African American voting, and the extensive grassroots organizing network of the Obama campaign into believing that turnout would be substantially higher than in 2004,” Curtis Gans, the center’s director, said in the report. “But we failed to realize that the registration increase was driven by Democratic and independent registration and that the long lines at the polls were mostly populated by Democrats.”

Some experts also note that national turnout trends may mask higher turnout in swing states with more intensive attempts by both campaigns to get their supporters to the polls. Several large states, including California and New York, had no statewide races and virtually no advertising or get-out-the-vote efforts by either presidential campaign.

According to the report, several Southern states - North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, and Mississippi - and the District of Columbia saw the greatest increases in voter turnout.

Overall turnout was highest in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, South Dakota and North Carolina, according to the report.

In 2004, 122 million Americans voted in the general election.

Filed under: 2008 Election
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. tiffany

    LH, go to the white house site which lists the bios of all presidents. you'll be fascinated to see that the ones who consistently stick out as the best in history had little more "experience" than obama.

    November 6, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  2. tiffany in georgia

    i waited 3 hours and 45 minutes to vote here in atlanta. in all my years, i have never seen such an amazing turnout here. people CARED. voting MATTERED. Obama '08.

    November 6, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  3. Bill in Ct.

    I'm so sick of some of you people saying the media was bias against McCain/Palin. If anything the media was for McCain/Palin, just look at all the crap those two were doing out there on the trail, spreading hate, calling Obama anti-american, saying he doesn't look like you and I, code work for, he's not (white), saying he pales around with terrorist, who is the real Obama, he doesn't love america like you and I. Just look at the things their crowd was shouting, " kill'em, bomb his house, he's a terroist, calling reporters the (N)word, telling a black reporter, go sit down boy, but did the media say they were way out of line, NNNOO, they just kept reporting. Palin was vetting and look at all the crap she had in her closet, did they report that on the tv news, NNNNNNNOOOOOOO

    November 6, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  4. IslandGyal

    IF your cousin believe we need to be in Iraq, he's a moron, sorry.

    November 6, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  5. tiffany in georgia

    Dave in Atlanta- you're absolutely right! if more new people became registered and voted, the percentage WOULD stay the same, even though far more people voted in this election. thanks for the insight. to all doubters, i can say this: they're still counting votes in Georgia. Still! So many more people participated. The wording of this article is misleading.

    November 6, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  6. Ron in Ca

    Bill in Ct;
    The only hate that I've seen in this campaign has been by people like you saying these kinds of things about McCain & Palin. Please read the research on news bias at Pew Research. From their study, MSNBC scored 73% of the news stories about McCain were negative, while only 14% of their Obama stories were negative. There is no excuse for this level of bias.

    November 6, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  7. Bill in Ct.

    Here's an sample of racism: Just read and think: Obama had been campaigning for close to two years and the media and the right wing neo-cons dag into his life, from his pre-school days to Rev. Wright, to people who were at a party, when he was just starting out, called him every name under the sun, and all the way to the election which was Tuesday Nov. 4, they said we still don't know who Obama is, give me a break, what they really meant was he's the black guy and we don't trust him, ok , Now lets go to Palin: from Alaska, no foreign policy experience, no economic experience,never been out of the country, wasn't vetted by the McCain camp, only been on the seen for 8 weeks and you know what some of you said, " SHE'S GREAT " , know one knew her but she's just like one of us, simply put, SHE'S WHITE and it's alright

    November 6, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  8. tired of delusional blind sheep

    i am so ashamed that tens of millions of americans did not vote.. our soldiers are dying so that men and women in other countries can have the right to vote for their own leaders.. and millions just chose not too.... almost 80,000,000 people did not vote.. tsk tsk tsk. and too boot, here in florida, we had 13 candidates on the ballot AND if those were not good enough, you could even write in you choice.. people are apethetic and lazy...

    everyone i work with voted.. at least i can take the fact that those in my immediate life, are politically aware.

    yay!!! obama / biden

    November 6, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  9. Bill in Ct.

    Ron in Ca) please I guess you didn't see anything wrong with the hate speeches and the fear mongers. Let me guess you're a Republican, That's right, I forgot you Rethugs never know your spreading hate b/c that's the way you bigots are, a bunch of HYPOCRITICS. Yes that pew report said that McCain/Palin received more negative reporting b/c they were the idiots out there at their rallies spreading hate like George Wallace back in the 60's. As a matter of fact (RON) it doesn't matter any more b/c those losers and your racist party, "THE NEO-CONS of the republican party lost and you want to know by who, AN ( COMMUNITY ORGANIZER ) LOL , just comes to show, that the real AMERICANs are sick of people like you and your fear mongers, hate spreading, racist group the NEO-CONS bye-bye LOSERS McCain/Palin LOL LOL LOL

    November 6, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  10. Betty, Virginia

    Interesting article... we had over 75% turnout at my precinct in Prince William county. I wonder if the numbers have a direct relationship to the amount of campaigning that happened. Someone mentioned it was more like 60% four years ago...

    November 6, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Bill in Ct.

    The same can be said about OBama! No experience anywhere, plus he never managed a thing in his life!

    November 6, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  12. black daddy, white mama

    Breaking news!! Correction: Obama is not an african american, he is half black, and half white So just as much of the time he is referred to as a black man he could easily and equally be referred to as a white man. Its just the facts people, sorry to burst your bubbles, but thems the facts, aight! Peace

    November 6, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  13. Jack

    Hey !

    Bill in Ct.

    The same can be said about Obama as far as experience. Never managed or ran anything. Never created new legislations, etc. He is, the most inexperience person to hold this office ever. That's a fact!

    November 6, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  14. Jack

    One more Point !
    Bill in Ct.

    The market is so shakey about this guy that it has been the biggest drop in the Dow ever since the day after a president elect.

    Also, today is another crushing downward spiral of over 400 points lost. Yep, raise tax on big business and midium size business. That' will help kepp jobs & inspire investments!

    November 6, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  15. tired of delusional blind sheep

    from a voters perspective, with all of the negativity and divisiveness coming from the republican side.. (the tv ads were disgusting, no facts, just anti-speech) ... in this election .. you either voted FOR Obama or you voted AGAINST Obama.. McCain never gave us any information that we could use to make an accurate intelligent decision... i am glad to say , that i am on the right side of history...The Left! 🙂

    November 6, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  16. public opinion

    let me guess, this is being moderated by a black person? The fact you wont post my comment proves my point, IGNORANCE is in your blood

    November 6, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  17. opie

    To A Really Conservative Realist – I hope the R party will return to REAL conservatism too. That will help keep the the Democrats in power even longer.

    I guess I missed the part of the constitution that says we can use tax money to build roads and help out hurricane victims.

    November 6, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  18. laura

    Didn't Palin say God wiil hear our prayers and elect the right person to office. I guess God did because Obama won.

    November 6, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  19. curious from Oregon

    Why is the voter turnout for 2004 in American University's report so different from elsewhere? infoplease, wiki, and ucsb all cite closer to 55% for 2004. That's roughly a 8-9% increase, pretty significant.

    November 6, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  20. patrick m walsh

    I HATED the biased media coverage over this whole election cycle. It was left wing to the max. From day one when the new York times said McCain was having an affair with no proof at all to when madonna called him a Nazi!!! Any dirt on Obama was dug up by hillary's people.

    November 6, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  21. TODD PHX, AZ

    Ok, so now that we have choosen between these two losers (Lets face it no one in congress should be asking for a promotion with their approval rating) can we as americans unite to find real leadership outside of the corrupt two party system. i suggest a new party of the people modeled after the ideals and policies of JFK & Reagan.

    November 7, 2008 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  22. Tom Dockery

    The Republicans threw the Election,figuring to let Obama be the fall guy for the coming Depression.Then they can rule for another 20 years.

    November 7, 2008 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  23. Tommy

    As a religious minority (Scientologist) I am glad Obama was elected. Everyone at my church was too.

    November 7, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
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