Federal Primary Election Runoffs and Voter Turnout Decline
Published October 2nd 2006

Updated: October 2006

This study looks at the decline in voter turnout between primary and primary runoff elections for federal races from 1994-2006. It is based on the two-party results of those elections.

In the vast majority of cases, it is possible to look for trends in the relationship between turnout and a candidate's race, gender, affiliation and/or office sought (House or Senate).

The study also looks at comebacks, or elections in which the runoff winner had trailed in the first round primary, and incumbency.

Summary of Findings:

Overall: Of 104 total runoffs for the period under study, 101 saw turnout declines. Mean turnout decline for the period was 34.7%. Median decline was 32.9%.

Over time: Turnout dropoff worsened since 2004.
2006: 43.31%
2004: 38.96%
2002: 30.20%
2000: 47.96%
1998: 31.62%
1996: 35.56%
1994: 28.10%

House vs. Senate: 39.59% dropoff in Senate races. 33.91% dropoff in House races.

By party: 34.54% dropoff in Democrat primaries. 35.36% dropoff in Republican primaries.

Gender: 26.08% dropoff in races with female candidates.

Race: 34.95% dropoff in races with candidates of color. Note the sample is incomplete; several races are omitted.

Comebacks: 29.17% of candidates trailed in the first round but won the runoff (28 candidates).

[Get the data (Excel 130K)]
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