United States Voter Turnout
The national and state turnout rates presented here are for the voting-eligible population (a.k.a. VEP). As its name implies, these turnout rates are for those eligible to vote. Dr. McDonald coined the term “VEP” in his seminal academic article and continues to update these turnout rates here. Generally, VEP is the voting-age population minus ineligible noncitizens and felons.
These turnout rates are generally considered the best measure of United States turnout rates. For example, they are distributed by the National Election Pool, the media consortium that runs the national exit poll, and thus provide the first estimate of voter participation in a federal election as reported by media. The Minnesota Secretary of State uses these statistics as their official turnout rate. They are widely used in textbooks, by policymakers, by academics, and by other stakeholders.
Current turnout rates for recent elections are constantly being updated as new information become available for the denominator components and, in the months following an election, as election officials report final turnout statistics.
You can find our data and documentation in our data archive. These data were formerly hosted on the US Elections Project, Dr. McDonald’s personal website. All data here supersedes data posted on the old US Elections Project site.
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Turnout Rate Data and Visualizations
National Turnout Rates 1789-Present
National voting-eligible population turnout rates from 1789-Present. Prior to 1948 are calculated by Walter Dean Burnham. 1948-Present by Michael McDonald.
Turnout Rate Demographics
Turnout Rates for selected demographic groups from 1986-present. These data are calculated from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) Voting and Registration Supplement, reweighted such that CPS state turnout rates match the voting-eligible population turnout rates.
National and State Turnout Rates
1980-2022 General Election Times Series
State and National Turnout Rates for Selected Elections
Why Voting-Eligible Population?
These VEP statistics are different than other turnout rates.
Election officials often report turnout rates for registered voters. Registration turnout rates serve important election administration purposes. However, voter registration turnout rates are not comparable across space and time. They are not comparable across space because states and localities vary in how they manage their voter registration rolls, particularly how they remove registered voters from them. They are not comparable across time because states and localities may change their voter registration laws and policies.
The Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, Voting and Registration Supplement is another frequently used data source, as are other election surveys. It is important to remember that surveys have errors. Most people are familiar with the margin-of-errors in polls that arises from sampling a population. Surveys can be challenged in other ways, and election surveys are particularly challenged because – for whatever reason – more people tend to say they voted than election statistics indicate. This is such a well-known phenomenon among pollsters that there is a special name for it, over-report bias.
The voting-eligible population is thus a more consistent turnout rate denominator than these other turnout rate measures. For example, consider when Oregon expanded their voter registration rolls by adopting automatic voter registration for people obtaining their drivers license. The number of voters went up, but the registration turnout rate went down because the new registrants voted at a lower propensity than existing voters. The VEP turnout rate went up, as one might have expected.
Even though VEP relies primarily on administrative records, it also has challenges. It relies on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for noncitizen estimates, which is a survey, albeit one with a very large sample size that reduces its margin-of-error. It relies on the Census Bureau’s population estimates, which Census Bureau demographers are continually updating. And so on. Indeed, all the VEP data sources are subject to updates, which is why these VEP turnout rate estimates may change slightly over time.