... roughly the same portion of eligible voters cast ballots in 2008 as in 2004.
Between 60.7 percent and 61.7 percent of the 208.3 million eligible voters cast ballots this year, compared with 60.6 percent of those eligible in 2004, according to a voting analysis by American University political scientist Curtis Gans, an authority on voter turnout.
He estimated that between 126.5 million and 128.5 million eligible voters cast ballots this year, versus 122.3 million four years ago. Gans said the gross number of ballots cast in 2008 was the highest ever, even though the percentage was not substantially different from 2004, because there were about 6.5 million more people registered to vote this time around.
Then the argument becomes a question of more registered voters, a sure sign that people were engaged. Well, that increase of 6.5 million is far less than the 18 million increase between 2000 and 2004. Further, a full 10 million more Americans were eligible to vote in this election, a figure which demonstrates the increased registered voter list is more correctly simply a function of population growth.
We also hear of a more formidable GOTV effort in 2008, as the organizational prowess of the campaigns, fueled by record fundraising, would translate at the polls. Maybe not:
The Democratic increase struck some analysts as modest, considering the party’s immense get-out-the-vote operation, strong anti-Bush sentiment and Obama's popularity.
“It sort of calls into question some of the vaunted ground game discussion, the whole turnout machine,” said a Democratic strategist who did not want to be quoted by name criticizing Obama’s campaign. “The GOTV effort was redoubled in 2008 compared to 2004, but it did not seem to make that big of a difference.”
A couple battleground states:
In Ohio, which has had aggressive GOTV campaigns in the past two presidential cycles, the number of voters appeared to decline from 5,722,443 in 2004 to 5,595,966 in 2008, according to the final but unofficial tally by the Ohio secretary of state. Turnout in those years dropped from 72 percent to 67 percent.
In Pennsylvania, 5,851,730 voters cast ballots with 99.8 percent of votes counted — a rise of nearly 690,000 voters over 2004, according its secretary of state. But due to higher registration, the percent of eligible voters who cast ballots dropped from 68.96 in 2004 to 66.8 this year.
I've also read, that the youth vote, if the exit polls are too believed, only increased to 18% of the total, as opposed to 17% in 2004. That pours a small dose of cold water on Obama's capacity to motivate a new generation, although in fairness, a gain is a gain.
The turnout was high, by American standards, so much of the above is more for balance, than to argue poor turnout. However, when you compare our snoozefest of an election, with a host of wooden characters, with an American election boasting charismatic overload, not to mention a host of compelling issues, it is noteworthy that turnout stateside amounts to about 2% more than in Canada, statistically comparable. That said, Canadians typically have much better turnout, but then again, the last American election was anything but typical.
High turnout, but droves to the polls, as predicted, not so much.