Registration, turnout higher during presidential election years

Posted October 29, 2012

School of Communication
University of Miami

Ida Nafie, an 87-year-old resident of New Jersey, will vote in 2012, but didn’t vote in 2010 during the Congressional election.

“I just didn’t make it out that year (2010), I was most likely occupied with something else and being an elderly makes it more difficult to get to the poll. I believe my vote in a presidential election counts more than a congressional one and can make more of a difference.  I will be voting in November, especially under this economy that we have now.”

The month of November 2010 was a Congressional election year, rather than this year, which will be a presidential election year.  Voter and voting registration rates are typically reported to be higher in years with presidential elections than in Congressional election years.

In 2010, voting seemed to vary and there were a number of factors that play into these data, which affected the overall outcome of the election.  There are many disadvantages among classes and races that play into the voting process and the outcome as well that were looked at for the 2010 Congressional election.

First, the voting and registration data from the 2010 election was broken down into a few different characteristics that can affect election outcome.  The 2010 voting information was shown by age, sex and education, also voting trends from 2010 were examined.  This information is subject to sampling error because the U.S. Census Bureau collected it using survey methods from the United States as a whole.

Focusing first on the United States as a whole, the percentage of age-eligible citizens who voted was 46 percent.  This is an average and constant number for the U.S. during a Congressional election years, yet is slightly on the low end.

The Census reported data that showed trends in voting in 2010 for the Congressional election and, out of 100 people, 45.5 people voted, 19.6 people registered but didn’t vote, 18.3 didn’t register and 16.6 didn’t respond.

Yet, in 2008, for a presidential election year, 63.6 people out of 100 voted, only 7.4 were registered and didn’t vote, 14.8 were not registered and 14.2 didn’t respond.  This data indicates just how different voting can be from year to year depending on the type of election occurring that year.  These people not voting in 2010 most likely just brushed the election off because they didn’t think it was as important as choosing a president, according to the experts on the census bureau site.

Next, the data looks at the breakdown of voting and voter registration by age of November 2010 in the U.S.  This is one of the most highly controversial voting categories since young people are reported to vote less.  Voting and registration tends to increase with age.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010, only 21 percent of 18-24 year olds voted, whereas 61 percent of people 65 and older voted.

The Current Population Survey branch of the Census found that data showed this intense voting breakdown by age.  It reported that 23.9 percent of 18-29 years old voted, 37.8 percent of 30-39 year olds, 46.8 percent of 40-49 year olds, 54.9 percent of 50-59 year olds, 61.5 percent of 60-69 year olds and 60 percent of 70+ year olds voted.  It is evident that the number of people voting goes up with each year and this is a major factor that goes into who wins or not.

Hayley Williams, a junior at the University of Miami, said she will vote this year.

“This is the first year I am voting, I just actually registered. I was eligible to vote in the 2010 election I guess but I honestly didn’t even know an election was happening that year. The presidential election every four years is the only election I find important,” said Williams.

Statistically in many elections, the rate of women voting is higher than men. This was also the case in the 2010 election; the voting rate was 46 percent for women and 45 percent for men.  There is not usually a drastic difference but it is another key element in the total election outcome.  For the 2010 election, the male vote was 44.8 percent out of 100 and the female vote was 46.2 percent.  Men also had higher rates than women for not registering.

The 2010 election was also looked at through an educational attainment category also.  This showed that voting rates typically increased with education as well as age. In the United States, it was reported that in 2010 the voting rate of citizens with at least a bachelor’s degree was 61 percent, compared to 25 percent of those who didn’t receive a high school diploma.

A total of 25.1 percent of those who voted in 2010 didn’t complete high school, 37.9 percent of those who voted had completed high school, 44.3 percent who voted attended college, 50.7 percent who received an associate’s degree voted, 57.7 percent who received a bachelor’s degree voted and 67.1 percent who voted received an advanced degree.  These data in 2010 makes a point that education plays a huge role in voting outcomes.

Lastly, the Bureau looked at how the voting and registration was varied by race and Hispanic origin, which is arguably one of the biggest indicators in voting or not.  This is because the likelihood of voting usually differs between race groups and Hispanics.

In 2010, whites voted at a higher rate of both Blacks and Hispanics.  Whites voting in the U.S. were 49 percent, Blacks were 43 percent and Hispanics were  31 percent.  Hispanics were the lowest proportion to vote, which is seen to be the case from year to year in most elections, whether Congressional or presidential.

It is also crucial and interesting to look at how Florida, as a state alone, affected the outcome of the Congressional election of 2010.  Compared to the national voting rate (46 percent), Florida in 2010 had a lower proportion, just 44 percent of age-eligible citizens voting.

Florida varied from the overall population of the United States for a few reasons, the most effective reasoning being the larger number of Hispanics here and variety of races in general.  The graph below shows voting and registration by race and Hispanic origin.

The Hispanic percentage vote was 41 percent compared to the U.S. Hispanic vote overall which was 31 and that is because there are more Hispanics in the state of Florida, so the numbers raised.  Florida was reported normal in every other category when compared to the United States as a whole.

Women’s voting percentage was very slightly higher than men’s and the higher the education the more likely one was to vote in Florida as well.  Age, education and race information reported by the U.S. Census Bureau help show the differences among groups and states and help campaigns/elections in the future.  It also clearly identifies whom and who is not voting and how some races are at clear disadvantages.

For 2012, this means that the candidates must keep in mind that education and race both heavily affect voter outcome.

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