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A Look at Voter Turnout and Enthusiasm

Conservative Analysis for 2012 with Historical Overview


A Look at Voter Turnout and Enthusiasm

Reward For Voting: Stickers

Mario Toma Getty Images
The big question for 2012 is whether the turnout will favor the Republicans or Democrats. Two main factors – voter enthusiasm and change in party identification – tend to answer the turnout question. We will also examine the voter turnout of presidential and midterm elections from 2000-2010 and the circumstances that effected voter turnout and partisan identification.

Changes in Self-Identification

As facts on the ground change, laws are passed, and hope and change comes and goes, so to changes the political party people associate themselves with (if any party at all). While many voters never change their party affiliation, a decent number of people change parties every year. What you will see in the data below is that party ID and turnout tend to change with the general mood of the country. Many moderates and independents gave Obama, who ran as a moderate, the benefit of the doubt in 2008 and voted for him. The question is how many of them have reversed course and switched parties since then? Republicans have notched big wins in 2009, 2010, and 2012. Will it continue?

Voter Enthusiasm

The second factor effecting turnout is voter enthusiasm. Dedication to removing (or keeping) a party in power, like or dis-like for law changes, or a desire to “make history” can all alter voter enthusiasm from year to year. The number of voters from each party who decide whether to make the effort to vote again often depends on their desire to either keep the status quo or head in a new direction. For 2012 are voters more enthused about Obama, Obamacare, and the current economic path or more enthused about changing the direction and reversing those policies?

Projected 2012 Turnout

This all leads to speculation about what the voter make-up will be for 2012. Changes in party affiliation over the years plus enthusiasm typically determine overall turnout and the ballot-box winners. Rasmussen Reports compiles the most comprehensive and frequent updates to voter self-identification trends. In October 2008, just before the presidential election between Barack Obama and John McCain, Rasmussen found that the partisan make-up was about 40% Democrat, 33% Republican, and 26% Independent. That was very close to the actual turnout of 39% Democrat, 32% Republican, and 29% Independent.

As of June 2012, Rasmussen Reports currently finds that the current trends are 36% Republican, 34% Democrat, and 31% Independent. This is a number that is very similar to the 2010 midterm election turnout and that of 2004, when President Bush won re-election. This trend holding would be very good news for conservatives in November of 2012.

Previous Turnout By Year with Brief Overview

2000 – 39D, 35R, 27I: Neither a Republican or Democrat year, George W. Bush won the White House even while losing the popular vote by a small margin to too-dull-for-many Al Gore. . Democrats actually picked up seats in both chambers of the US Congress.

2002 – 38D, 40R, 22I: A rare year in which the party in control of the White House actually picked up seats in both the US Senate and House of Representatives. President Bush enjoyed high ratings at this juncture following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

2004 – 37D, 37R, 26I: George W. Bush won re-election by 51-48% over John Kerry. Republicans picked up 4 seats in the US Senate and 3 in the US House for a solid year for the GOP overall.

2006 – 38D, 36R, 26I: Growing displeasure with the Republicans by both conservatives in the Republican Party and by Democrats saw huge wins for the Democrats in both chambers of congress as they retook control of the legislative branch. This was the first of two huge years for the Democrats.

2008 – 39D, 32R, 29I: Democratic self-identification actually remained consistent in 2008, one of the biggest years for Democrats in the decade. But GOP turnout plummeted and self-identified Independents ticked upwards. The left was loaded with enthusiasm, the right was not. Barack Obama was easily elected president as John McCain was outmatched by his wealthier, history-making opponent.

2010 – 35D, 35R, 29I: Following a $1 trillion dollar spending spree by President Obama and the passage of Obamacare by any-means-necessary, the tea party roared into existence in 2009 and 2010 and picked up a whopping 63 seats in the US House and 6 seats in the US Senate. Conservative Democrats were ushered out of office and conservatives and Independents voted in large numbers to oust moderate Democrats and, in many instances, replace them with tea party candidates.

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