The Enthusiasm Gap Revisited

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Here’s a pretty interesting chart from Seth Masket showing how much voter turnout changed between 2008 and 2012. Some of the outliers are obvious: Arizona and Alaska went down because they didn’t have candidates on the ticket this year. New York and New Jersey went down because of Hurricane Sandy. California is a mystery.

What’s more interesting, though, is the pattern. I’m just eyeballing this, but it looks like there really was an enthusiasm gap. Obviously three big Obama states were way below their 2008 levels. Beyond that, though lots of states at or below the red line were also Obama states in 2008 (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Vermont, etc.). Conversely, lots of states above the red line were McCain states (South Carolina, Idaho, Texas, Georgia, etc.). There are plenty of exceptions, so I might be off base here, but my quick read of this data is that if state-by-state turnout had stayed at 2008 levels, Obama would have won the popular vote by nearly as much as he did four years ago. I imagine it would be easy for someone with the raw data to stick it in a spreadsheet and find out for sure.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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