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Voter Turnout Uncertain for 2006 Election

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A handful of scandals in Washington during the past year as well as low approval ratings for Congress in general lead one to speculate whether voters will be turned off by politics and stay home in November, or motivated to—as some pundits claim—'throw all the bums out.'

Minnesota and the rest of the Upper Midwest usually lead the country in turning out the vote in general elections. However, turnout in non-presidential election years is noticeably depressed even in this politically engaged part of the country.

Overall, voter turnout in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, and Wisconsin has averaged 68% in presidential elections since 1960, compared to just 52% in off years. Minnesota leads the pack in presidential elections during this span (72%) with South Dakota ahead in off years (58%).

Minnesota has turned out the vote quite well in off years during recent elections—inspired in part by competitive races, tragic events (Senator Paul Wellstone's death) and notable third party campaigns (Jesse Ventura, Tim Penny) that have generated unusual interest and media coverage. In 2002 63% of voting age adults in the Gopher state took the time to vote, preceded by 60% in 1998. The same cannot be said for its neighbors Iowa (47%, 45%) or Wisconsin (45%, 46%).

2006 is an off year election, and no one yet knows if turnout will be dismal, approaching record highs, or somewhere in between. It is even more difficult for political junkies to speculate on turnout, as our interest in politics is horribly skewed compared to the average voter. Smart Politics will therefore wait until November 8th to make our predictions.

Previous post: Third Parties: Minnesota Leads the Pace in US House Races
Next post: US House Redistricting: Iowa Gets Lowest Marks for Proportionality

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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