As GOP fight continues, turnout numbers lag
March 8th, 2012
11:44 AM ET
10 years ago

As GOP fight continues, turnout numbers lag

(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.

Also see:

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Obama releases movie trailer a week before campaign film's debut

Cindy McCain defends Palin over HBO film

Filed under: 2012
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. cali girl

    So I wonder why the voter turnouts are low? Could it be that the voters are just not happy with the selection?

    March 8, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  2. vic , nashville ,tn

    Where is the enthusiasm?

    March 8, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Republicans are so embarassed by the GOTP field that they are not even showing up to the primary polls.

    March 8, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  4. demogoat

    Just less republicans then there use to be. They are jumping ship.

    March 8, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  5. clarke

    Voter's are either lazy or feel they don't want to cast a vote for anyone of the four. Either way, it is not a good reason not to vote. What a shame. So, if you did not vote then you can't voice your disapproval at the end of the day..

    March 8, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  6. Noodle Nose Johnson

    The GOP has the worst slate of candidates in history and President Obama's policies have had a positive effect on the country and economy. Most moderate Republicans will either stay home or vote for Obama.

    March 8, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  7. Paul1st

    If each state would add "None of the Above" to the ballot, maybe the turn out would turn up.

    March 8, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. Texas Doc

    Face it, the candidates in this primary suck.

    March 8, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  9. Bill

    According to Rinse Prius, the enthusiasm is way up. Not. This is what the GOP gets when it fields the Keystone Kops as candidates.

    March 8, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  10. Joe The Plumber

    Just dont think the moderates are showing up – too many idealogs in the race to appeal to tthe interest of moderates. And the failure of any GOP candidate to step up to the plate and condemn Limbaugh reassured the base but did nothing to inspire the moderates in the party. Not sure any of the GOP candidates are savy enough to see that.

    March 8, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  11. Riptim

    Every major poll shows Obama beating the gop field by large numbers no matter who the nomine is. Thats why there is no ambition on the part of the gop to go out and vote.

    March 8, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  12. Jen

    How does it compare to 1996? That was the last time Republicans were trying to find a candidate to run against an incu.mbent president.

    March 8, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  13. Marie MD

    Maybe the teapublikans aren't as dumb as they appear to be. They really have a choice of bad or worse!!

    March 8, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  14. ourjungle

    They battle through the long days and long nights,month after month,but a GOP junk yard dog will face the final battle,not a whiper,nor a whine will you hear.

    March 8, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  15. Lolo

    They cut off their own noses to spite their faces. Now they have the four stooges to pick from and no one is excited. Be careful what you ask for is what my parents taught me growing up. The hatred and racism in this party is so unbelievable in the 21st century.

    March 8, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Jen asked

    How does it compare to 1996? That was the last time Republicans were trying to find a candidate to run against an incu.mbent president.
    Most pundits compare this cycle to 1976, which was the last time Republicans had a brokered convention. They also had problems in 1964, too, as they were absorbing all of the new Repubican Dixiecrats.

    March 8, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  17. ST

    Bombarded with negative ads around the clock are really annoying. Nothing in the ads which lifts up the spirit and make a person get motivate to go and vote.

    March 8, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  18. scmom

    Let's hurry up and get this over with. I watch MSNBC and if I hear Joe say Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Paul Ryan one more time I am going to explode. They are not running and don't want to run and please no more Bushs'. People are not turning out because of the candidates. No one can explain how they are going to do any better just a lot of bull about what President Obama is doing. We know what you think he's doing or not doing what are the candidates about. I am tired!!!!

    March 8, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |