Tag Archives: CPS

Impact of early voting

Early voting turnout as % of votes cast; Source: http://elections.gmu.edu/CPS_2008.html

Citizens voting before Election day continues to increase as the above graph shows from Current Population Survey data.  [The CPS didn’t ask about early voting in the early 1980s.]

Early voting is lower in the off-presidential years, but party experts speculate that a third or more of voters could vote early in the 2010 election, as high or higher than the 2008 presidential election.

“This year, the District and 32 states, including Maryland, allow some form of early voting….Increasingly, states are making it easier for people to vote early, allowing “no excuse” mail-in ballots and automatically sending ballots to voters who voted by mail in the past…. In some states that make early voting especially easy – such as Nevada, where voting booths can be found in health clubs, libraries, supermarkets and shopping malls – it could be much higher. In the last election, 60 percent of Nevadans voted early.” (Washington Post, “Democrats hope early voters will give them an edge“, 10/20/10)  [For a graphic of which states allow voting when, see the Early Voting Center.]

For sure this changes election strategy, pushing candidates not to hold as much of their advertising until the final days of the campaign, to reconsider their approach about last minute negative campaigning, and to invest more resources up front in a GOTEV (get out the early vote) operation.  And in some states, voters may be locking in their votes before they even hear candidates debate, undermining some of the deliberation in our electoral process.

The Post’s headline focuses on the hope for Democrats but signs seem more mixed.  For sure Democrats are trying to rebuild the grassroots machine that helped lift Obama to victory in 2008.  In some states, like Iowa, early voting turnout is up both among Democrats and GOP in 2010.

Democrats hope early voting will change the tide in Senate races in Nevada, Colorado and Washington.   But Politico reports that “In [Nevada’s] Reno’s Washoe County and Las Vegas’ Clark County, Republican turnout was disproportionately high over the first three voting days, according to local election officials. The two counties together make up 86 percent of the state’s voter population.”

Republicans also seem to be early voters in North Carolina. For example, the “largest group of early voters in North Carolina is made up of white Republican men, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Democracy North Carolina, a campaign watchdog group.” Even though “[d]uring the 2008 Democratic sweep, black Democratic women led all groups during the 17 days of early voting.”

Michael McDonald, voting guru at GMU, summarizes the state of play as “This is the big test election to see if voter mobilization really has an effect on turnout….And at least according to the very earliest early-voting numbers, people who thought the Democrats were going to roll over and play dead, that’s not what’s happening.”

Stay tuned…

Youth voting only up among non-whites in 2008, seniors still far more likely to be heard

Flickr photo by Indigo Jones

I previously reported Current Population Survey data that showed that the youth voting turnout was up from 2004 to 2008 and that non-whites voted at record rates in 2008.  I just saw the intersection of these two trends: e.g., breakouts of voting turnout by ethnic group and then within ethnic group by age.

The bottom line is that the increase in youth turnout in 2008 was all concentrated among non-whites.  For 18-29 year old (non-hispanic) whites, voting was essentially flat; for 18-29 year old blacks, voting rates increased from 2004-2008 by 18%, for young Hispanics (18-29) by 15% and for young Asians voting rates increased by 26% in just one presidential election from 2004 to 2008!  I haven’t seen these further broken out by education but my hunch is that a disproportionate share of this may be among more well-educated non-whites, based on CIRCLE’s report on this.

For a picture of these trends (not the VTAG), click on this link. CPS Voting Turnout 2004-08 by age and ethnicity

Moreover, if one looks across age groups, one sees in general that the voting increases were much more concentrated among 18-29 year olds; blacks were the only racial group where voting turnout rates increased from 2004 to 2008 among all age cohorts.

Finally, voting turnout age gradients [VTAG] (the rate at which 65+ folks in that racial group vote relative to 18-29 year olds) closed in all racial groups other than whites.  For whites, voting rates remained some 40% higher for 65+ year olds (or a VTAG gradient of 1.4).  Among blacks, the voting turnout age gradient declined from 1.34 to 1.17 (i.e., 65+ year old blacks still are 17% more likely to vote than 18-29 year old blacks), for Hispanics the VTAG  declined from  1.61 to 1.38 and the voting turnout age gradient essentially disappeared among Asians, going from 1.41 to 1.05 from 2004 to 2008.

While these trends are certainly good news from the perspective of reducing the biases in our democratic system, they still leave a system heavily biased towards senior concerns.  If seniors are 60-80% more likely to vote than 18-29 year olds, it is little wonder that AARP has such power and that our national policies distort the benefits of what is paid out to seniors versus what is invested in younger Americans.  [Interestingly, this parallels David Willetts’ intergenerational equity argument in The Pinch that I was explaining the other day.]  Of course, these voter gradients (distortions in voice) need to get to 1.0 and the groups have to be of similar size to stop these inter-generational distortions.  And among whites (who are still represent three-quarters of the voting ranks), seniors are still voting 40% more frequently than young adults.  So we still have a long way to go.