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University of Florida

Voter Turnout Rates Among Metropolitan Statistical Areas

We provide here citizen voting-age-population turnout rates for Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) for the 2016 and 2020 November general elections.

These MSA turnout rates are produced with the generous support from the Houston Endowment. With this support, the UF Election Lab issued a report on the Houston MSA’s turnout rates compared to other large MSAs nationwide and with other Texas MSAs.

Below is a sortable table of MSA citizen-voting-age population turnout rates. These data and documentation may also be found on the UF Election Lab’s data archive. Data definitions are provided below the table.

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land MSA (dark green)

What Are Metropolitan Statistical Areas?

The federal Office of Management and Budget defines a Metropolitan Statistical Area as a collection of urban counties. MSAs are composed of an inner core county and adjacent counties with a threshold number of commuters to the inner core county. An MSA may thus be composed of a single core county or a single core county with one or more adjacent counties that have a sizable number of commuters who work in the core county.

If you want to see the United States’ MSAs, the Census Bureau publishes maps for each state.

Table: MSA Turnout Rates

Data and Methodology

Citizen Voting-Age-Population Turnout Rates

The numerator for our turnout rates is the total number of votes cast in the 2016 and 2020 November general elections in the presidential election. These data are drawn from the Voting and Election Science Team’s (VEST) precinct data collection disseminated by the University of Florida Election Lab.

MSAs are larger than precincts and composed of entire counties. As part of VEST’s quality control, we verify that votes reported within precincts sum to the county votes as recorded by election offices in their certified election results.

The denominator for our turnout rate is the citizen voting-age population (CVAP) of the MSA. We use the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey’s five-year estimates for CVAP. The American Community Survey is an annual large-scale survey designed to replace the decennial census’s long-form questionnaire after the 2000 decennial census. Among its many questions is citizenship status, which we use for our turnout rate denominator.

While the ACS is a large annual survey of a million respondents nationwide, the Census Bureau compiles responses into five-year increments to provide more reliable estimates for smaller jurisdictions. While MSAs are large, they are individually relatively small compared to the nation.

The Census Bureau recommends the best ACS population estimate for a given year is the mid-point year of the five-year ACS. Following this recommendation, we use the 2014-2018 five-year ACS for our 2016 CVAP estimate. We use the 2017-2021 for our 2020 estimate because at the time of this report, the 2018-2022 five-year ACS data have not been released.

Get The MSA Turnout Rate Data

This dataset and accompanying documentation are available on the UF Election Lab Archive