Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The (Very) High Turnout in North Carolina and Indiana

One thing about yesterday's primaries that deserves further attention is the high turnout for the Democratic primaries in both states. Generally, primary turnout tends to lag far behind general election turnout. Therefore, one statistic really jumped out at me about yesterday's primaries: in both contests, turnout in the Democratic primary exceeded the number of votes Kerry won in the states in the general election. In North Carolina, over 67,000 more voters voted in the Democratic primary than cast votes for Kerry in 2004. This is particularly impressive given that North Carolina has a semi-closed primary, where Republican registrants could not participate in the Democratic primary. In Indiana, which has an open primary, over one-quarter of a million more Hoosiers voted in the Democratic primary than voted for Kerry in 2004. And Rush Limbaugh can't take credit for this gap. The exit polls indicated that 10% of Democratic primary voters identified themselves as Republicans. Even if you subtract this group from the turnout figure, Democratic participation still would've out-paced Kerry's vote by well over 100,000.

How did this play out in other primaries? The figure below plots these numbers. The diagonal line shows the point at which Democratic primary turnout and the 2004 vote for Kerry are equal. As you can see, Texas is the only other state where Democratic turnout exceeded Kerry's 2004 vote, though many other states had totals that approached the 2004 Kerry vote.

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