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The · Psychohistorian

Turnout targeting

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Those closely following the 2012 election results likely know by now that the number of votes cast was far lower this year than it was in the last presidential election. Obama's popular vote was down by 7.7 million from 2008; Romney's popular vote was down by 1.4 million from McCain's.

This seems an unexpected result, since both campaigns this year seemed to have better voter turnout efforts than in 2008. Obama's supporters don't care much since they won anyway. However, there are recriminations in some Republican circles. Who didn't vote? The religious right? Moderate Republicans? Ron Paul supporters? Did they lose the election for Romney?

The answer becomes clear, once one looks in the right place. State by state popular votes show that Romney's vote total was actually higher than McCain's in all swing states but one. The fall in the national popular vote total was due to lower voting rates in nonswing states. Even if all those "lost" McCain votes had showed up, they would have made no difference to the presidential election.

Ironically, the drop in the national popular vote was exactly because of the effectiveness of the voter turnout efforts - in focusing efforts in the swing states, and not wasting precious campaign dollars and volunteer efforts elsewhere. Romney managed an increase in his voters in swing states by accepting reductions elsewhere; Obama kept his swing state popular vote losses minimal compared to the rest of the nation.

Swing state  Obama 2008  McCain 2012     Obama 2008  Romney 2012
Colorado      1,288,633    1,073,629      1,252,679    1,135,403
Florida       4,282,367    4,046,219      4,204,408    4,140,223	
Nevada          533,736      412,827        529,005      462,607	
New Hampshire   384,826      316,534        369,497      329,910	
Ohio          2,940,044    2,677,820      2,690,841    2,583,582	
Virginia      1,959,532    1,725,005      1,897,096    1,783,210	

2012 state by state numbers:
2008 state by state numbers:
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