Census Bureau: American Voting

By Jim Ellis

June 2, 2017 — There are always seemingly conflicting reports about the actual number of people who register to vote and the corresponding number who are even eligible to participate, but we are now closer to having more definitive information courtesy of the US government.

The Census Bureau recently released its biennial national report on voter registration, which provides us some definitive answers to the aforementioned observations. According to their report, the 2016 presidential total vote, rounded to 137,537,000 though the actual recorded total registers 136,792,535 ballots cast, set an all-time participation record exceeding the 131,426,292 total tallied from the previous national high (2008; Obama vs. McCain presidential election).

According to the Census Bureau report, 71.2 percent of citizens over the age of 18 are registered to vote. The Pew Charitable Trusts Research & Analysis department, which dissected the government’s findings, sees this number as a slight increase over the 70.3 percent total registration figure found soon after the 2012 presidential contest.

In last November’s election, the turnout rate among registered voters appears to be over 85 percent, but the bureau is relying on self-reporting from their respondent sample and this stated number is too high. The actual voting number suggests a registered voter turnout percentage falling in the high 70s percentile range. Of the eligible voter population, meaning all US citizens aged 18 and older, the Census Bureau estimates that a total of 61.3 percent cast a ballot in the Trump-Clinton election.

Age is often a determining registration and turnout factor. Pew tracked the age segmentation and found that in both the post-2012 and 2016 presidential election period that 75 percent of individuals aged 35 and over are registered to vote, with a high of 78.7 percent coming from the 65-74 age group segment. Directly after the Obama-Romney race of five years ago, 53.6 percent were registered in the 18-24 age group, typically the segment having the lowest registration and turnout rate. After this most recent election, this segment’s registration figure rose slightly to 55.4 percent.

In terms of gender, more females than males register to vote (72.0 percent to 68.6 percent). In the racial segments, both whites and blacks have high registration counts, 72.5 percent and 65.3 percent, while Hispanics and Asians don’t even break the 40 percent mark. Only 39.2 percent of Hispanics and 38.9 percent of Asians are registered, referencing the Census Bureau study.

Voter registration jumps when comparing married people to those who are single. The marriage gap is greater than 10 full percentage points. Regarding married individuals, 70.3 percent are registered to vote as compared to 60.0 percent of those who have yet to enter into wedlock. The highest marital registration segment is widowed individuals, with a 72.9 percent rate. The registration factor among the divorced is 69.6 percent.

Having a better understanding of registration and turnout statistics, with particular emphasis surrounding individual demographic segments can help us more accurately predict election outcomes in addition to obtaining a fuller fundamental comprehending of swing voter behavior patterns.

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