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Turnout, or voter turnout, refers to the percentage of eligible voters who actually vote in an election.

High rates of turnout in the Second Party System demonstrated strong voter interest; all adult male citizens could vote; compare this to 60% turnout in 21st century in the Fifth Party System

For presidential elections, voter turnout has been about 50-55% in the United States in the past few decades.[1] For non-presidential federal elections, voter turnout has been between 35% and 40%. For local school board elections, voter turnout can be less than 20%.

In the presidential election of 2008, the overall turnout nationwide was 57.9%, which decreased to 52.5% in the presidential election in 2012.[2] Turnout is somewhat lower today than in prior periods of American history.[3]

Typically the turnout in a primary is particularly low. The record turnout for the State of Alabama in a presidential election is only 42.6% of registered voters (which is only a subset of the total number of eligible voters). That record was set in 2008. The prior record for Alabama was only 29% (set in 1992).

Urban versus rural

In general, rural residents vote in higher turnout than city residents do.[2]

Turnout declined in both urban and rural areas in 2012 compared with 2008. The turnout in rural counties declined from 67.2% in 2008 to 54.9% in 2012.[2] The turnout in small cities fell from 61.1% in 2008 to 52.7% in 2012.

Further reading

  • Alexander Keyssar, The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States (2001) excerpt and text search

See also


  1. http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0781453.html
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 http://www.dailyyonder.com/rural-voter-turnout-drops-18-2012/2012/11/29/5514/
  3. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/turnout.php