November 7th, 2008
05:00 PM ET
12 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. David, Silver Spring, MD

    I predict that as the years go by, the number of people claiming they voted in this historic election will go up and up, far eclipsing the number who actually voted on Nov. 4.

    November 7, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  2. Matt

    @ Truth Hurts

    Can I have some of what you're on? Tim Leary would be proud. Seriously. Republicans not going to the polls was a result of disgust with their own party and an unwillingness to vote for the other guy. No more, no less. I understand denial is the first step, but eventually you will have to mourn the death of some of the Republican Party's core ideals, so you can move on to acceptance. Many in your party already seem to be doing just that and it is going to be necessasry if you want to save it.

    November 7, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  3. LJinLACA

    America elected the educated ticket.

    Thank god they can name the NAFTA signatory countries, and know that Africa is a continent, not a country.

    The republican ticket was woefully inadequate, and the American people refused to choose mediocracy to lead this country in crisis.

    November 7, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  4. carment

    Truth Hurts:

    And I guess if the Republicans DON'T win, we'll have to put up with 8 years of whining from you, instead of four

    November 7, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  5. mume

    yeah for CNN

    November 7, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  6. Nancy

    Give me a break. On ballots, it doesn't say if you are a democrat or republican, how in the hell do they know. This is ridiculous – Obama won by a landslide and that is that. It was a record turn out – give history it's credit. I refuse to believe that people were registered voters and didn't vote in the most historical election – probably ever!

    November 7, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  7. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Janice, you apparently fail to see the irony in Obama being able to declare he will end a war by a certain date a full year before he is elected, before he even met with the commanders on the ground, yet can't say when he will finish his cabinet picks. I'm not asking FOR the picks, just a date. It's not that hard. I would have hoped for the same 'deliberate haste' in deciding how to end a war.

    Too bad you can't direct some of your chastising comments to fellow Obama supporters who continue to bash McCain on these blogs. Your guy won, and McCain lost. McCain was gracious in defeat. Obama claims he wants to bring people together, yet his supporters seem intent on continuing to drive people apart by ripping at the wounds to keep them open. The same happened when Hillary lost. I know you've seen the comments. McCain has sacrificed more for his country than Obama or most Americans ever will. He deserves more respect than many bloggers have given him. I don't wish Obama poorly, as I am an American first and Republican second. If he doesn't do well, America doesn't do well, and I want my country to do well. I expect that Obama will deliver on his promises, but I don't think he can. Not all my blogs about Obama are negative. Just yesterday I blogged that his choice of Chief of staff was a good one, even though many Reps were criticizing it. Obama has promised a lot. Expectations are in the statusphere. He needs to deliver. It's really HIS turn to put up or shut up. We're waiting.

    November 7, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  8. Matt

    Truth Hurts huh? How wonderfully fitting and ironic all at once seeing as how when confronted with the truth Republicans tend to do one of a couple of things:

    (a) ignore it

    (b) pretend it doesn't exist or

    (c) fabricate a bunch of stuff and claim that it is the truth instead.

    So yeah, I'll take your word for it. You'd certainly know how much truth hurts, as evidenced by your avoidance behaviors and seeing as how the truth just annihilated your party last Tuesday.

    November 7, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  9. JS ...... santee

    Wow....then why all of the lines and why all of the problems. I've never seen so many people vote.

    November 7, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  10. G.R.I.T. - Girl Raised in the South

    I think the old adage "you reap what you sow" applies here. Republicans felt beaten because the overall tone of the McCain/Palin campaign was negative. Negativity, such as we saw during this campaign, wears on people, even if the negativity is coming from their side. It inspires nothing, but leads to feelings of insecurity, discomfort, anxiety, and depression.

    November 7, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  11. EC

    Peace everyone. TIme for all of us to get off our duffs and get our country fixed.

    November 7, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  12. vapalla

    Truth Hurts
    "The republican machine was kept in the garage this election."

    Awww. Did it crap out or did they run out of gas? (Probably both!)

    uh Huh
    "... nobody but african americans voted by race. "

    No they didn't vot by race. They are smart. They knew to vote for the BEST and what America most needed. Believe it or not, some smart people of other races did too. MILLIONS more than voted for the RNC's crapped-out Jalopy.

    Yay America!!! 😀

    November 7, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  13. democrats /PA

    obama was president before anyone voted for him
    it was fixed from the get go

    November 7, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  14. peter

    It is your right to vote so you have to exercise it fully without any fear.I am glad this time around the right candidate won.Look for the big landslide win of Obama in 2012 if things goes his way as expected.I can't wait for GOp see GOP dumb Sarah Palinas again i 2012 and face once more again the biggest landslide victory of her only life time to Obama.

    Let us get to business in helping get this country to it foot one more time people.

    November 7, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  15. janet, ohio

    It's interesting that Obama said in his acceptance speech that people lined up in record numbers in order to vote for change. (In other words, in order to vote for him) He only got 52% of the vote, so it seems about half those people were lined up to vote against him.

    It's also interesting how when a Republican gets 51% of the vote, (Bush, 2004) the media mourns that the nation is divided, but when a Democrat gets 52% of the vote (Obama, 2008) he has a mandate.

    November 7, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  16. Post Racial ... Not Yet

    This points to the fact that he Dems still have so much ground to make up.

    I've got to believe that given how much better Obama was a candidate and how much better he executed his campaign, the Dems should have KILLED the GOP in the popular vote count. I hope by 2012 American's get over their racial hang ups.

    Howerver, if the GOP had turned out it's religious fanatics, this would have been a closer race. I find that mind boggling.

    Democratic leadership

    It’s time to consolidate the party’s appeal to “real America”. By this, I don’t mean a geographic area (like Ms. Palin or Mr. McCain). Rather I mean Americans that are …

    Ethnically diverse … Americans of latino, white, asian, black descent. Take more of the map in 2012 by expanding the coalition. America isn’t going to be only a “white” country.

    Fiscally conservative … as measured by a balanced budget … NOT simply TAX CUTS as was the reflective refrain from the Republicans during this and every past election.

    Moral & supportive of churchgoing citizens … demonstrate where the Democrats are good and decent and promote right vs wrong … fair vs unfair …. This doesn’t mean mindless charity.

    Promote intelligence. Show tangible improvement in public school student performance and interest in education … math …. Science … the arts …

    Focus on Congressional accountability. In your own way, embrace McCain’s anger, “I will make them famous, you will know their names!”

    Take this a step further though and create a routine way to convey to each congressional district whether their representative was part of the problem or part of the solution and throughout President Obama’s term, communicate this within their ENTIRE state.

    Bolster or kill that representative’s chances for Governor, Senator or other statewide advancement.

    November 7, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  17. Joi

    I think what pushed Democrats to the polls this year was 8 years of a failing economy. Also, Barack Obama is a charismatic young man. More people, myself included, were drawn to the message of hope from a man who cares.
    We had enough of dumb. We wanted a smart and methodical man in the white house.

    November 7, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  18. malclave


    No. For example, In California, a lot of them voted for an amendment to the state Constitution to ban gay marriage.

    November 7, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  19. Steve the I.T. guy

    I'm a Republican and I voted already knowing that McCain wasn't going to win. I did my civic duty because it was my right. The Media had already chosen who was going to win months ago and continued reporting everything they could so Obama would win. How many times did the Media report on Negative things about Obama compared to McCain? FOX News was the ONLY network to have FAIR AND BALANCED coverage. They had a total of 19% Negative for BOTH parties. Unlike MSNBC with a 73% Negative towards McCain and a whopping 17% for Obama. Now sure where the other 10% got to, but it probably went to Sarah.

    Take into effect the problems with ACORN and a record number of Newly registered Democrats... 10 million new registers. Without them or the Media, the Election could have been different. It doesn't matter now anyway. In 4 years the Media better not choose who will be President like they did this time.

    November 7, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  20. Charm

    The Republican ticket was a losing one. Is it no wonder more Republicans didn't turn out to vote for a ticket they knew would lose? It's really a no-brainer.

    Truth Hurts, the backlash just seen was against 8 years of abuse of power and extremely bad economic and foreign policy under Bush. I think the majority of Americans know that resolving the mess of 8 years under Bush cannot be done in 1 4-year term. And it will really take non-partisan cooperation to make any progress at all. Don't you think it's about time to put aside all the rhetoric and give the people's President elect a chance?

    November 7, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  21. cs

    The turn out is not good enough until it is 100%. As for his press remarks today I just hope the media will now get it right he is america's first bi-racial president not the first "black president" as so many including cnn keeps saying. Mr. President-Elect Obama I hope you do find a shelter dog that fits your needs.

    November 7, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  22. Charm

    Uh huh,

    Sadly, I had minority friends who did not vote for Obama because of his race. I also had white friends who did not vote for Obama because of his race. The race factor played out for a lot of people, not just African Americans.

    November 7, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  23. CanIcallyouJoe

    Could this be evidence to the claim that neo-republicans are ignorant and belligerent nationalists?

    Think about it. Bush turns the US into the shadow of Nazi Germany, complete with false flag attacks and his version of "The Enabling Act". So after eight years, Dems have to come out in record numbers to finally put the threat to rest, and Twenty-One( When Missouri's count comes in, it will show McCain for sure, so really 22) states still vote for a man who's only difference on anything that matters to the people is minuscule!!

    So yes, I think this is clear evidence that more Republicans happen to be morons than their Democrat opposites.

    November 7, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  24. Sandy

    I wish people would be positive. That's half the problem. So much negativity. Let's stand behind Obama. We may all be better off. We have become so hard instead of being a team and helping each other. He is for the working family who struggles each day. The difference between things most of us can not afford and "J Crew" that we all know.

    November 7, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  25. Lynne

    Truth Hurts...well you must be pain-free. You're in such denial about the "republican machine" that I can only guess you're high or the orderlies will come any minute now and take you back to your room.

    November 7, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
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