Thursday, March 06, 2008

Record Turnout

According to the Texas Secretary of State, a record 4.2 million Texans turned out to vote in the Tuesday primary, a full 1.1 million more than projected in advance by the SOS. Of those 4.2 million, 2.8 million voted in the Democratic primary, a figure that is close to what John Kerry received in the 2004 general election in Texas. Of the Democratic voters, African-Americans comprised 20 percent of the vote, and Hispanics 30 percent. Young voters (ages 18 - 29) comprised 16 percent, an unheard of figure. Contrast that to McCain, who received about 700,000 votes (and Huckabee, who received about 500,000.) Does such an impressive turnout among Democrats mean that either Obama or Clinton might have a chance at taking Texas in November? It's too early to say, but it's a thought you should keep in the back of your head.

UPDATE: Charles Kuffner crunches the numbers himself and agrees that Republican strategists are right to be worried about November. Democratic voters are turning out in far greater percentages than Republican voters, continuing the trend that began in 2006. This suggests that they are turning out to vote not simply because there are two good candidates competing for the Democratic nomination, but because there is also a fundamental shift in partisan alignment in some of Texas' largest counties. Also, Kuffner challenges the idea that many of these new Democratic voters were actually Republicans in disguise trying to boost Hillary's chances (on orders from Rush Limbaugh, apparently.) The phenomenon exists, but it simply cannot account for the numbers of Democrats that voted on Tuesday. In other words, it appears that in fact Democratic turnout was hugely impressive, Republican turnout was not, and some of that can only be explained by attributing it to changes in party alignment in Texas. While this may not presage a Democratic win in Texas in November, it certainly bodes well for Democrats running all the way from U.S. Senate to County Sheriff.


Nate said...

I'm concerned whenever people try to draw conclusions from the difference in turnout for Democrats and Republicans in these primaries and caucuses.

Isn't it likely that one of the primary incentives to vote is the feeling that one's vote will be important in deciding a live contest? The Democrats have an extremely tight race; voting takes on an urgent and important quality. The Republicans, however, have a race that's entirely sealed-up. The average Republican might be seriously tempted to stay at home and wait for the "important" vote in November.

I'm not against the possibility that some of the difference is due to legitimate differences in overall engagement, but I think far too little attention is being paid to the most obvious explanation for turn-out disparities.

Xanthippas said...

Thanks for the comment. I agree. Those with a stake in the matter are trying to argue that Hillary's success is attributable to this crossover vote, but the simplest and most reasonable explanation is simply that a ton of people who don't vote in the primaries turned out to vote, and some of them didn't stick around to vote for down ballot races. Without a doubt some of this is explained by mischievous Republican voters, but how many really turned out to waste their vote in such manner?