Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Will Minnesotans Turn out to Vote in Record Numbers this Midterm Election?

Bookmark and Share

Pollsters' numbers suggest turnout may well exceed 2002's record 64.9 percent mark, but are those numbers reliable?

Over the past few decades, Minnesota is known to have notched many of the highest voter turnout rates in the nation, flirting with 80 percent in each of the last two presidential election cycles.

In fact, Minnesotans' strong sense of civic duty (and, of course, the state's inviting voter registration laws) is such that the state's turnout rate in midterm elections has been on par with the national rate in presidential election years.

Still, only about three in five eligible Gopher State residents vote during midterm cycles, with the high water mark since 1950 being 64.9 percent, set in 2002 when Governor Tim Pawlenty won his first term in that year's top of the ticket race.

However, a review of public opinion polls released over the last several weeks on Minnesota's 2010 gubernatorial contest finds that survey organizations are releasing data suggesting a much higher projected turnout.

(See also David Brauer's recent report on how survey organizations determine 'likely voters').

For example, in the new Star Tribune poll released on Sunday, 1,227 Minnesota adults were interviewed via landlines and cell phones, of which 949 were deemed to be likely voters, or 77.3 percent.

The Gopher State has reached a 77.3 percent turnout rate just four times since 1950 - all, of course, in presidential election years.

But the Star Tribune poll is not alone.

SurveyUSA's four polls of likely voters in May, June, August, and September all yielded a percentage of likely voters of adults interviewed in excess of the state's midterm record of 64.9 percent (65.3, 71.9, 71.7, and 65.6 percent respectively).

(Note: Rasmussen has polled Minnesota's gubernatorial race five times this year but does not publicly indicate how many adults are interviewed to yield the number of likely voters surveyed).

Likely Voter 'Rate' in Minnesota 2010 Gubernatorial Election Polling

Poll
Date
Interviewed
Likely voters
Percent
Star Tribune
Sept. 20-23
1,227
949
77.3
SurveyUSA
Sept. 12-14
1,000
656
65.6
SurveyUSA
Aug. 2-4
1,850
1,326
71.7
SurveyUSA
June 14-16
2,250
1,617
71.9
SurveyUSA
May 3-5
900
588
65.3
Table compiled by Smart Politics.

But the data gets a little more complicated than this.

And that is because the raw number of individuals interviewed in these surveys before likely voter determinations are made ("adults") does not filter out residents ineligible to vote, such as felons, non-citizen legal residents, and illegal aliens.

Therefore, when SurveyUSA interviewed 1,000 adults in mid-September, the 656 likely voters came from a "voting age population" (VAP) base of adults generally, not the "voting eligible population" (VEP) base from which voter turnout rates are determined. (VAP is the statistic commonly used for survey organizations for sampling).

As such, when 65.6 percent of SurveyUSA's interviewees are determined to be likely voters, the comparative metric is not the state's rate based on VEP data (64.9 percent in 2002, 60.5 percent in 2006), but rather VAP (59.7 percent in 2002, 56.4 percent in 2006).

In short, the polling data suggests an even greater turnout.

One explanation for this overly optimistic read on the electorate is that those who are most interested in politics (and thus likely to vote) are those who are more willing to agree to be interviewed about politics in the first instance, thus elevating the percentage of likely voters in the sample. (Note: when a survey organization interviews, say 1,000 adults, they may need to call up to twice as many households or more to reach that number, as many adults are not home or refuse to be interviewed etc.).

In the end, the only real question for journalists and poll-watchers who examine these horserace numbers is whether or not any key demographic is being 'oversampled' as likely voter numbers are inflated to a level which clearly are not going to be reached on Election Day.

In other words, if a survey organization deems 7 out of 10 Minnesotans interviewed are likely to vote, but only 6 in 10 do so in the midterm, is that extra 1 in 10 'likely voter' fairly reflecting all meaningful demographics that might impact vote choice (e.g. age, race, gender, partisan ID, ideology, some of which are already being weighted)?

It appears so, at least for SurveyUSA, upon further reflection of their 2006 gubernatorial race polling.

In SurveyUSA's final poll of that cycle, conducted November 3-5, 1,000 Minnesota adults were interviewed, of which 710 were deemed to be likely voters (71.0 percent).

However, only 60.5 percent of the voting-eligible population in Minnesota and just 56.4 percent of the voting age population actually voted in the 2006 election.

Still, SurveyUSA nailed the race, finding a 45 to 45 percent deadlock between Pawlenty and DFL nominee Mike Hatch. Pawlenty won by a 46 to 45 percent margin.

Voter Turnout in Minnesota Midterm Elections, 1950-2006

Year
Rate
2002
64.9
1970
62.4
1962
62.4
1982
62.3
1998
62.3
1966
61.8
1954
60.8
2006
60.5
1958
60.1
1990
58.8
1978
58.0
1950
56.8
1994
55.2
1974
49.5
1986
48.2
Source: Minnesota Secretary of State. Data indicates total ballots counted divded by the voting-eligible population for each cycle.

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.

Previous post: Tea Party, The Movie: Panned by Critics, Loved by Audiences
Next post: Pollster Interest in Minnesota Gubernatorial Race Only Up Slightly from 2006

Leave a comment


Remains of the Data

Which States Have the Longest and Shortest Election Day Voting Hours?

Residents in some North Dakota towns have less than half as many hours to cast their ballots as those in New York State.

Political Crumbs

No 100-Year Curse for Roberts

Defeating his Tea Party primary challenger Milton Wolf with just 48.1 percent of the vote, Pat Roberts narrowly escaped becoming the first elected U.S. Senator from Kansas to lose a renomination bid in 100 years. The last - and so far only - elected U.S. Senator to lose a Kansas primary was one-term Republican Joseph Bristow in 1914. Bristow was defeated by former U.S. Senator Charles Curtis who went on to win three terms before becoming Herbert Hoover's running mate in 1928. Only one other U.S. Senator from the Sunflower State has lost a primary since the passage of the 17th Amendment: Sheila Frahm in 1996. Frahm was appointed to fill Bob Dole's seat earlier that year and finished 13.2 points behind Sam Brownback in the three-candidate primary field. Overall, incumbent senators from Kansas have won 29 times against two defeats in the direct vote era. (Curtis also lost a primary in 1912 to Walter Stubbs, one year before the nation moved to direct elections).


The Second Time Around

Former Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez became the seventh major party or second place gubernatorial candidate in Colorado to get a second chance at the office when he narrowly won his party's nomination last month. Two of the previous six candidates were successful. Democrat Alva Adams lost his first gubernatorial bid to Benjamin Eaton in 1884, but was victorious two years later against William Meyer. Democrat Charles Johnson placed third in 1894 behind Republican Albert McIntyre and Populist incumbent Governor David Waite but returned as the Fusion (Democrat/Populist) nominee in 1898 and defeated GOPer Henry Wolcott. Gubernatorial candidates who received a second chance but lost both general elections include Democrat Thomas Patterson (1888, 1914), Progressive Edward Costigan (1912, 1914), Republican Donald Brotzman (1954, 1956), and Republican David Strickland (1978, 1986).


more POLITICAL CRUMBS

Humphrey School Sites
CSPG
Humphrey New Media Hub

Issues />

<div id=
Abortion
Afghanistan
Budget and taxes
Campaign finances
Crime and punishment
Economy and jobs
Education
Energy
Environment
Foreign affairs
Gender
Health
Housing
Ideology
Immigration
Iraq
Media
Military
Partisanship
Race and ethnicity
Reapportionment
Redistricting
Religion
Sexuality
Sports
Terrorism
Third parties
Transportation
Voting