Election Runoffs and Voter Turnout Decline
This study examines the decline in voter turnout between primary
and primary runoff elections for all federal elections between 1994
and 2004 in which a runoff took place. Data was collected on votes
received by the winning candidate and total party votes cast in both
rounds of partisan runoffs for the United States Senate and House of
Representatives. The data was then analyzed based on race, gender,
party affiliation, and the office sought to see if voter turnout
varies under certain conditions. Further analysis was completed on
runoff comebacks (elections in which the runoff winner had trailed
after the first round primary) and incumbency.
Information on the
2004 general election results
will be added to the study in November.
Summary of Results
- Voter turnout declined in 94 of 96 races in this
- 35.80% aggregate turnout decline for all runoff elections
- Average turnout decline per primary race:
- 38.93% in 2004
- 30.20% in 2002
- 47.96% in
- 31.62% in 1998
- 35.56% in 1996
- 28.10% in 1994
- Turnout decline and office sought:
- 37.71% average for 17 total Senate
- 33.50% average for 79 total
- Turnout decline and partisan races:
- 32.88% average for 47 total
35.55% average for 49 total Republican primaries/runoffs
- Turnout decline, gender, and race:
- 39.50% average for runoffs with
- 31.44% average
for runoffs with candidates of color
- However, these results may not be significant because of
sample size (14 candidates of color and 9 female
- Runoff comebacks:
- 33.33% of
candidates won the runoff after trailing in the
- 5 out of fourteen candidates of
color came back to win the
trailing in the primary
- Of the nine
female candidates who won a runoff, two had
after the first round.
- This chart shows turnout
decline based on these various factors.
- Note on incumbency:
- 85.71% (30
of 35) of the general election winners in this
study are still in
office as of October 2004.
- The five
who are no longer in Congress:
Riley; retired in 2002; now Governor of Alabama.
Scarborough; retired in 2001; now MSNBC host.
Sanford; retired in 2000; now Governor of South
Bentsen; did not run for reelection in 2002;
unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Senate.
Watts; retired in 2002
***None were defeated in a reelection
bid as an incumbent***
- See the MS Excel Spreadsheet
for further detail