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Michael McDonald on the CPS 2006 Turnout Data

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George Mason
University Professor Michael McDonald, whose voter turnout web site is
one of the most useful election data resources on the web, sends along this
note:

The 2006 Current Population Survey
(CPS) Voting and Registration Supplement, a primary source of data for many
voting studies because of its large state sample sizes, is now available for
download. To access these data, use the Census Bureau's Data Ferret program.

Preliminary analysis

The CPS reports that 47.8%
(+/- 0.4%, remember, the CPS sample size of over 100,000 is very large and that
margin of error varies with sub-sample sizes) of the citizen voting-age
population reported voting, which compares to my most recent turnout
rate estimate
of 41.3%. The higher CPS turnout rate is consistent with a
well-known phenomenon known as "over-report" bias, where more people report
voting than aggregate statistics indicate. For comparison purposes, 46.1% of
the 2002 CPS citizen voting-age population reported voting while my turnout
rate estimate is 40.5%.

The overall percentage of
the electorate reporting voting before Election Day is 18.5%, down slightly
from 20.0% in 2004 and up from 14.2% in 2002. California
and Washington
saw an increases in early voting to 33.2% in 2006 from 29.9% in 2004 (CA) and
to 71.8% in 2006 from 60.6% in 2004 (WA), however, increases were reported in
only 15 states. This may reflect a tendency of early voting to drop off in
midterm elections, so I would caution that 2006 is probably not indicative of a
new downward trend in early voting which has increased strongly in every
election since 1998 from 11.2%. (Of course, these are self-reported rates, not
actual election statistics such as those collected by The Early Voting Center.)
If these trends persist, it may very well be true that more Californians will
have voted early before the 2008 New Hampshire
primary than all New Hampshire
voters.

Turnout by demographic
categories show that higher turnout in 2006 versus 2002 likely came from
younger, white, moderately educated citizens (slightly more women, too). Perhaps
most interesting is the lower turnout among non-Hispanic
African-Americans, which indicates that Democrats likely won in 2006 by
expanding their base rather than relying on their core constituencies, though
we can't know for certain from these data because the CPS does not ask who
people voted for.

One other interesting
tidbit is found in Tennessee
where Harold Ford ran in a closely contested U.S. Senate race. If the CPS is
correct, non-Hispanic African-American turnout rates went down in Tennessee a
non-statistically significant amount between 2002 and 2006, from 41.1% to 38.9%
(+/- 7.6%).

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