A new national Gallup poll reinforces polling results from Texas foreshadowing a potential decline in voter participation in the general election. The percentage of U.S. adults who rate themselves as “definitely” voting is the lowest recorded for the last five presidential elections. Almost all of the drop-off is attributable to younger voters.
In 2008, almost three quarters of U.S. adults aged 18 to 34 said they would definitely vote in the presidential election between Barack Obama and John McCain, putting them just behind voters older than 35. Eight years later, less than half of that age group says it will definitely vote, a drop off of nearly two out of every five who voted in 2008.
Compared with 2008, adults who identify as or lean toward Republicans are about 6% less likely to vote while Democrats are 15% less likely to vote.
Keep in mind that actual turnout figures are usually about 20 percentage points than these polling figures, and Texas turnout is even lower than that. Texas has ranked either 49th or 50th in terms of percent of the voting-age population casting ballots for every general election since 2000.
The number of Texans who voted in the 2012 presidential election was smaller than the number who voted in 2008. Never in state history has turnout – measured as the number of people voting – dropped for two consecutive presidential elections. Voters’ highly unfavorable opinions of the candidates and the general negative tone of the campaign may cause the number of voters to fall below the last two presidential elections, and it appears that a greater share of those voters who would otherwise lean toward Democratic candidates.