By now, you have probably heard some people claim that Hillary Clinton mainly lost due to low turnout.
As an example of how widely it is believed among progressives that low turnout cost Clinton the Election, some claim that turnout in 2016 was the lowest it has been in 20 years: lower than 2012, 2008, 2004, and 2000.
But here is the thing, that is not true. Turnout in 2016 will likely be slightly higher than it was in 2012, much higher than 2000, and well above the historic average.
Here are the numbers:
In 2012, the Voting Eligible population, the number of Citizens registered to vote or legally allowed to register, was 222,474,111. That year, there were 129,070,906 votes in the Presidential Election, for a voting eligible population turnout of 58.016%. (Source: United States Election Project)
In 2016, the voting eligible population of the United States is 231,556,622. As such, in order to equal 2012 turnout levels, there would need to be 134,340,229 votes in the 2016 Presidential Election. (Source: United States Election Project)
While the counting is not yet done, the current estimate for the total number of votes in the 2016 Presidential election is 134,537,600. Thus, turnout in 2016 is likely a bit higher than it was in 2012. (Source: United States Election Project)
It is worth adding that turnout went up slightly in 2016 despite numerous obstacles being placed on voting in several states following the Supreme Court striking down key sections of the voting Rights Act in 2013.
Here are other recent Presidential Elections for a comparison of turnout by voting eligible population (Source: United States Election Project):
2016: 58.1% (estimated)
2008: 61.6% (highest turnout since 18-year olds were given the right to vote in 1972)
The claim that 2016 represented a 20-year low in turnout is way off. In fact, 2016 was closer to the post-1972 turnout peak of 2008 than it was to turnout in 2000. Further, while counting is still underway, it looks like 2016 will finish basically tied with 1992, 58.1% VEP turnout, and 2012 for the third highest turnout election since the passage of the 26th amendment.
It is possible that turnout was down among key demographics that lean toward Democrats, while up among demographics that are more favorable toward Republicans. That is a hypothesis that deserves more investigation. However, we are months away from having accurate information on that via the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, so we should reserve judgement at this time.
I have been in politics for 12 years and this blog is 9 years old, and I can tell you that there are a lot of progressives who want to believe that Democratic defeats are always caused by low turnout among an uninspired electorate. From where I sit, that is why the low turnout narrative took off, because it was what progressives wanted to believe. However, it is just not true in this case, and we are not going to start winning Elections again by inventing our own facts in order to support our desired reality.
As of this morning, the 2016 Presidential Popular Vote count is:
Clinton - 61,964,263
Trump - 60,961,967
Clinton's lead is 1,002,296 and still being counted.
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker