Turnout, or voter turnout, refers to the percentage of eligible voters who actually vote in an election.
For presidential elections, voter turnout has been about 50-55% in the United States in the past few decades. 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. Turnout is somewhat lower today than in prior periods of American history.
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.
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. The turnout in small cities fell from 61.1% in 2008 to 52.7% in 2012.
- Alexander Keyssar, The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States (2001) excerpt and text search
- American election campaigns, 19th century
- First Party System
- Second Party System
- Third Party System
- Fourth Party System
- Fifth Party System
- Gilded Age
- Jim Crow