Reasons for the increase in voter turnout in the 2008 United States presidential election

Voting behavioural theory states that voters vote based on a number of key factors – region, race, gender, age, etc – meaning that any if these factors could explain the increase in voter turnout in the 2008 presidential election. Whilst neither presidential candidate was a woman, the vice presidential candidates offered some choice. However, in the competition between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, gender was irrelevant. Palin was unlikely to inspire women to vote Republican due to her aggressive political persona and under-qualified status. By sex, women had a higher voting rate (66 percent) than males (62 percent), however, neither was statistically different from 2004 suggesting that the 2008 presidential election did not spark interest among either gender.

Among states, voting rates varied widely. Among states and state-equivalents with the highest voter turnout were Minnesota and the District of Columbia, each with voting rates of about 75 percent. Hawaii and Utah were among the states with the lowest turnouts, each with approximately 52 percent. These statistics suggest that the increase in voter turnout was possibly a question of region, however, does not put forth a definitive answer.

About 131 million people reported voting in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, an increase of 5 million from 2004, according to a new table package released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The increase included about 2 million more black voters, 2 million more Hispanic voters and about 600,000 more Asian voters, while the number of non-Hispanic white voters remained statistically unchanged. Statistics put forward the idea that it was in fact the issue of race that inspired the dramatic increase in voter turnout in the 2008 presidential election. A significant increase of minority votes implies it was the prospect of having the first black president of the United States that encouraged new voters to take part and make history.

Additionally, voters 18 to 24 were the only age group to show a statistically significant increase in turnout, reaching 49 percent in 2008 compared with 47 percent in 2004. Blacks had the highest turnout rate among 18- to 24-year-old voters — 55 percent, an 8 percent increase from 2004. It is arguable that the increase in younger voters is due to the race issue. Many college students would be inspired by the idea that voting for the first African American president would be creating history, or maybe simply represents the idea that the new generation of voters does not see candidates for the colour of their skin, but for their political potential. Barack Obama represented ‘Change’ in the 2008 election, another factor that could have encouraged many people to vote.

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