Turnout by Age, 2000-2008


Michael McDonald has done a great first look at the Current Population Survey voter turnout data that were just released at the end of last week. Be sure to read his discussion of the new CPS data.

Here I just wanted to update the turnout by age chart that I did last fall. What is striking is that voters under 30 increased their turnout rate over that of 2004, which in turn was up from 2000 by a lot.  But more surprisingly, voters over 35 decreased their participation rate from what it was in 2004.  These are not huge differences, but they are quite consistent for the over-35 group.

In contrast to the 2008 pattern of increase among the young and small declines among the older citizens, the 2004 pattern showed an upward shift for all age groups, though more so for the young.

There will be time to attack these data with more sophisticated tools, but one has to speculate that among older voters the appeal of Obama was less stimulating than among the young for Democratic constituencies,  and perhaps among Republican leaning constituencies there was a slightly greater willingness to stay home than in 2004. Let me label this clearly as speculation– I’ve not run analysis to address this yet. The change in turnout in the CPS overall is very slightly down (by 2 tenths of a point) from 2004 to 2008, but we know the actual vote count was up a bit, by 1.6 points by McDonald’s Voting Eligible Population estimate.

So the CPS estimate may be a little at odds with the vote data, but the relative turnout among age groups tells an interesting tale.  Even with increases among the young, the classic pattern of increases in turnout with age still holds, and the recent upturn of voting by those under 30 has served to reduce that gap, but has not come close to putting an end to the age-turnout relationship.