Census Details Voter Turnout for 2004

Washington Post

May 26, 2005 – More than 125 million Americans — 64 percent of those ages 18 and older — went to the polls in last year’s presidential election, according to data scheduled to be released today by the Census Bureau.

The agency’s numbers, the latest in a series of portraits of the nation’s electorate, included statistics illustrating the truism in politics that turnout rates among segments of the population vary — sometimes widely — with their demographic characteristics.

The bureau reported that women turned out at a slightly higher rate (65 percent) than men (62 percent). It found that non-Hispanic white citizens voted in proportionately higher numbers (67 percent) than African Americans (60 percent), Hispanics (47 percent) and Asians (44 percent). The agency said turnout rates increased from the 2000 election among whites (by five percentage points) and blacks (by three), but held steady for Hispanics and Asians.

The agency also found that turnout rates were closely correlated to a voter’s age. A little more than 73 percent of those between 65 and 74 said they voted, the highest rate for any age group. Those between the ages of 18 and 24 had the lowest, with 47 percent reported going to the polls.

Between those two groups, turnout rates increased steadily with age. Seventy-three percent of those between 55 and 64 said they voted, compared with 69 percent of those between 45 and 54, 64 percent of those between 35 and 44, and 56 percent of those between 25 and 34.

The numbers also indicate that turnout rates are closely tied to levels of formal education. Those with bachelor’s degrees or an advanced degree voted at much higher rates (80 percent) than those with high school degrees (56 percent) and those without a diploma or its equivalent (40 percent.).

The agency reported that the employed were more likely go to the polls (66 percent) than the unemployed (51 percent) or those not considered to be a part of the workforce (61 percent). Veterans voted more frequently than non-veterans.

Those who lived in swing states were generally more likely to vote than those who did not. Minnesota, one of the most closely contested states, had the highest turnout rate (79 percent); Hawaii, which the presidential candidates ignored until late in the campaign, had the lowest with 50 percent.

The agency said its numbers, which were taken from a November survey, are probably inflated because respondents tend to exaggerate how faithfully they go to the polls. The Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, a nonpartisan group that studies voting patterns, has estimated that 122 million went to the polls last year. The Federal Election Commission has not released its estimate.

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