President Obama won all 10 of the states with the highest turnout in 2012. That means less than you think.

September 24, 2013

On Monday, we posted a chart that combined state-by-state voter turnout in the 2012 election with the winning margin in each state for President Obama or Mitt Romney.

As we noted, the chart seemed to indicate the importance and strength of Obama's voter identification and turnout operation since he won each of the 10 states with the highest (percentage) turnout.

Or not.  Emory University professor Alan Abramowitz -- he's the Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science (awesome!) -- sent us the chart below that compares state by state turnout in 2008 and 2012 with Obama's margins in each state between those two elections.

"The message is, change in turnout had no effect on change in margin," Abramowitz wrote to us. "In both years, Obama did better in high turnout states but that’s because high turnout states tend to be somewhat more Democratic."

To Abramowitz's point:  Of the 10 highest turnout states in 2012, only four of them -- New Hampshire, Colorado, Iowa and Virginia -- have voted for a Republican for president more recently than 1988(!).


Image courtesy of Alan Abramowitz.

"Turnout declined almost everywhere [in 2012 as compared to 2008] but the smaller the decline, the greater the drop in Obama’s margin," concluded Abramowitz. "But it’s a very weak relationship.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Chris Cillizza | September 24, 2013