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Does low voter turnout favor the Republican Party? Historically is there a causal relationship between turnout and political affiliation?

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Establishing a causal relationship is hard.

There are established correlations between

  • Income and turnout (in 2008 41% of those earning $10000 or less voted, compared with 78% of those earning $150000 or more)
  • Ethnicity and turnout (in 2008 65% of "non-hispanic white" people voted, compared with 32% of "Hispanic" people.)
  • Age and turnout
  • Income and political preference (lower income people tend to vote Democrat)
  • Ethnicity and political preference (White people tend to vote Republican)
  • Age and political identification

It is therefore reasonable to suppose that there is a relationship between political identification and the likelihood of an individual voting, and non-voters are more likely to identify with the Democratic party. If there are more Democrats who are habitual non-voters, then efforts to encourage voting will tend to favour the Democratic party

What is less clear is whether the headline turnout rate affects the result. A low turnout can either be because Republicans or because Democrats stay at home.

Richard Nixon and Donald Trump won election with a turnout close to 60%, Clinton won in 1996 with one of the lowest turnouts, close to 52%. Considering Elections since 1960, There is little correlation:

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