Report shows turnout lower than 2008 and 2004
November 8th, 2012
04:39 PM ET
10 years ago

Report shows turnout lower than 2008 and 2004

(CNN) – A report estimating the percentage of eligible voters who cast ballots in Tuesday's election shows the rate was lower than in the past two presidential contests, though it surpassed the rate from 2000.

Thursday's report, from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, put 2012 voter turnout at 57.5% of all eligible voters, compared to 62.3% who voted in 2008 and 60.4% who cast ballots in 2004. In 2000, the turnout rate was 54.2%.

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The group estimated 126 million people voted in the election, where President Barack Obama defeated GOP nominee Mitt Romney. That means 93 million eligible citizens did not cast ballots.

In all states except two (Iowa and Louisiana) the turnout rate was down from four years ago, though six states had higher total numbers of people voting than in 2008: Delaware, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

States with the highest turnout rates were all either considered battlegrounds in the presidential election (Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire) or had a high-profile down-ballot contest. In Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown were battling for Senate, 66.6% of eligible voters turned out.


Minnesota's turnout rate of 74.6% was the highest in the nation, and could have been bolstered by the ballot measure there banning same-sex marriage, which failed.

The lowest turnout rate in the nation was in Hawaii, where 43.6% of voters cast ballots, followed by West Virginia, New York, Oklahoma and Texas. All of those states were considered locks for either President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.

Hawaii's 2012 turnout rate was a record low for the island state. Six other states set records for low turnout: Kansas, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, Utah and West Virginia.

In the report, the writers note that the turnout results are a "one-time setback to the rise in turnout which started with the 2000 election or a return to the slide in participation that began in 1964."

"That question will likely be answered by the 2014 midterm election and the 2016 presidential election," the report said.

Filed under: 2012
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Dave

    If you want to increase turnout, do three things; 1. eliminate the Electoral College; 2. move Election Day to a weekend; 3. allow voting from home (somehow). Or just be like Australia, and make it mandatory.

    November 8, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F

    How about that crazy low life in Florida, Allen West?

    November 8, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  3. The REAL Truth...

    Looks like some of the rights voter suppressing efforts succeeded then. Regardless, truth and fact prevailed and the right candidate retained the Presidency.

    November 8, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  4. jkane sfl a vote for lady parts romney the tax cheat and lyin lady parts ryan willcut your moms medicare and soc sec . .can you afford to pay for them???

    Maybe because of the long lines and some people went home ,all caused by gop voter sapression tatics guess what ,a lot of them were probably gop votes ,
    Thanks Carl rove you moron probably cost the gop thousands of votes and thanks Scott,the soon to be one term failed gov of Florida !!!!

    November 8, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  5. mk1

    Considering that the GOP does better when turnout is low, this really points out that they are going in the wrong direction if they can not win a truly winnable election with low voter turnout. Add to this low turnout the fact that demographics is rapidly turning against the GOP and they have a major problem on their hands, which to me is a good thing to a point. We need a viable two party system, or even more parties to keep all the parties in line to do what is best for the country. One party, either one, that gets it into their heads that they alone have all the answers spells disaster for our country.

    November 8, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  6. Tish

    Well duh! With all the voter suppression and purging what else would you expect. They tried to buy and steal the election but it didn't work even with the lower turn out. America is not for sale!!

    November 8, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  7. rs

    Voting online would be a big step forward. Clearly though we need to make voting more open, not harder as the GOP tries. Hint- any information on Florida, yet?

    November 8, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    This is terrible news for the GOP/

    Does it break down the turnouts for each year by geographic area or by state? It would be interesting to know how much of a role Sandy played in the decrease. If the decrease is localized to areas affected by Sandy, which tend towards Dem, then it's even worse news for the GOP.

    November 8, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  9. Getoverit

    Voter suppression!!! Voter suppression!!! Waaaaaah!!! Good God, enough already!!!!

    November 8, 2012 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  10. Facts don't Lie

    the GOP knows full well that the more people who vote the better chance the Democrats have of winning. This is the main reason they had their wins in 2010..and they hoped with all their change of voters laws and hours it would discourage more from casting their votes. Hopefully one day all voting can be done online......and trust me there is a way that can be done without fraud and that will end the RNC attempts at voter suppression.

    November 8, 2012 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    And BTW, Mittens left such a lasting impression in MA that we set a record for turnout this year, so really, don't put too much stock in this downturn narrative.

    November 8, 2012 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  12. Alfred E. Neuman

    Romney lost the election because of turn out. It was too much for many Republicans to old their nose and vote for him!

    November 8, 2012 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  13. gate

    How many people were disenfranchised? How many gave up after standing in line for too long? How many couldn't get off work to vote? How many made it through the lines to find out they had been stricken from the roles?

    November 8, 2012 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  14. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

    I live in a state with vote by mail. In 2000, about 80% of registered voters participated. Average turnout is 60.13% (which is 8.5% higher than the national average).

    For those who think vote by mail increases the chance for voter fraud, since 2000, 15 million ballots have been cast by mail in my state, but there have been only 9 convictions of voter fraud.

    I love having a ballot 2.5 weeks ahead of the due date, to give me time to learn about measures and candidates. It also is wonderful for seniors and other who have a hard time getting to the polls. It encourages and supports EVERYONE voting.

    Vote by mail: It's the way to go!

    November 8, 2012 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

    rs: "Voting online would be a big step forward."

    I don't like the idea of votes going out into the ether, with all due respect to those professionals who are involved in encryption. Vote by mail is the way to go!

    November 8, 2012 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  16. Ancient Texan

    Tish- Yes it was....Soros got his puppet reelected.

    November 8, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  17. Ancient Texan

    It is odd to see the election map on a county by county basis.....RED...with blue polka dots...but enough for Obama's reelection.

    November 8, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  18. More Free Stuff Coming!!

    What are you talking about Sniffit???? This is great news. Lower turnout for the Repubs means I get more free stuff from the Dems in power!!! I love free stuff!!!!

    November 8, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  19. GOP = Greed Over People!

    Thanks to voters all across America for standing in line to execute your civic duty, whoever, you voted for.

    Still interested to hear what excuses those who "exercised their right to NOT vote" are going to give to the vets with missing limbs, lost fighting for their right to vote, or to the parents, wives, husbands, and children of dead warriors that sacrificed all, as to why getting a latte at Starbucks, was more important to them than voting.

    Pathetic "patriots" indeed.

    November 8, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  20. Brittney

    Minnesota Rules! Highest voter turnout again! So civically active!

    November 8, 2012 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  21. Evergreen

    Thanks GOP your voter suppression effort worked perfectly. You should be pround.

    November 8, 2012 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  22. DixieDebVa

    WHAT??? For 2012 we had at least 5x the normal voter turnout.. maybe 10x?? Average time in line waiting to vote was over 1.5 hours.. my wait was just 10mins shy of 2 hours.. the line stretched down the school halls as far as you could see.. folks said it was like that all day.. I can't believe reports that voter turnout was down. I am in the middle of Virginia. In all previous presidential elections, I waited less than 10 mins. Sadly something fishy seems up again..

    November 9, 2012 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  23. J.V.Hodgson

    In my world of democracy if you win even in a relative way. Then when you wanna do something the way you want it done, provided it does not say, for example ,disenfranchise a minority, or unfairly differentiate a particular minority from the general populace, or unduly favor a minority ( say the 2% rich) then the balance of power and result should be capable of winning with just one vote.
    In this last election thru our constituional checks and balances we have moved towards the democratic party view of policies needed going forward = Senate +2 democratic or leaning thereto and House reduced GOP majority of 6/7 and in both cases by removing right wing Gop'ers or tea partiers.
    The message is clear Obama has the leverage of what we the people want.
    Sandy reduced the the democratic popular vote but Dems have this by 2.5 % anyway and its over 50 % like it or not
    Relativity theory only explains the shade of red or blue when seeing the light... todays political color is clearly blue.
    Shall we dance? Or just continue to tread on each others toes and hurt each other regretably equally.!!?

    November 9, 2012 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  24. Steve Brown

    Kevin...i think you overlooked Virginia..where i just discovered the turnout was a truly extraordinary 76% plus!

    November 9, 2012 01:48 am at 1:48 am |