Interest spiking in early voting

Registration and voting in 1996, 2000, and 2004

Registration and Voting in Presidential Elections

It's a little tricky to show registration, turnout, and turnout of registered by age for three different elections all at once. I hope that the chart makes clear the great gains in 2004 for young voters, driven by huge increases in registration combined with strong GOTV efforts.

Selected items to note:

  • Turnout is essentially the same between 1996 and 2000, with a noticeable uptick in 2004 concentrated in young voters.
  • Voter registration is roughly the same for all three elections other than an increase in 2004 among those 35 years old or younger.
  • In 2004 turnout of 18 year olds (44%) was higher than registration among 18 year olds in 2000. In other words, even if 100% of registered 18 year olds had voted in 2000, overall turnout of 18 year olds could not have been as high as 44% without first increasing registration rates.
  • Among those who are registered, turnout has risen across the board from 1996 to 2000 to 2004, but again this increase is concentrated among young voters.
  • Among the registered population, those age 85 or older were the least likely to vote in 2004.

Feb 2009: uploaded a slightly improved chart.

U.S. Voter Registration and Turnout By Age, 2004

I was playing around with Census data tonight and wanted to see how a Lowess (bandwidth=.15) or polynomial (6-term) smoother compared. Both deal with the sampling variability of Census data by smoothing out a line as an approximation; the polynomial version takes all of the data into account while the Lowess version only incorporates nearby data (i.e. local vs. global smoothing).

Earlier this week I uploaded a working paper I wrote back in January that compared registration, turnout, and turnout of registered between 1996 and 2006. I used a polynomial smoother because that was readily available in Excel, but I was worried it might be biasing the edges. Hat tip to Avi Feller for suggesting the use of Lowess back then.

It looks like either is fine for registration or turnout, with Lowess being a little bit better at showing local changes as one would expect. I still need to look at turnout of registered though Adding in turnout of registered there is a stronger case for Lowess in that it better shows the 18 year old turnout bump among those who are registered.

US Voter Registration and Turnout, 2004

Update: For those following along at home, here is Stata code you can use to try it out (data compliments of NBER):

drop if prcitshp == 5 | prtage gen voted = pes1 == 1
gen registered = voted == 1 | pes2 == 1
gen age = prtage if prtage > 0
collapse (mean) registered (mean) voted, by(age)
lowess registered age, bwidth(0.15) gen(registered_smooth) nograph
lowess voted age, bwidth(0.15) gen(voted_smooth) nograph
list, clean
restore, preserve
* Repeat if registered == 1
* Copy results into Excel and make a chart (see attached .xlsx file for Excel 2007/2008).


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