It Does Not Take Many Votes: Participation in the Republican Primaries and Caucuses

The purpose of this blog post is simply to record what the participation rates have been in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries and caucuses, to make the point that the preferences reflect a pretty thin slice of the population.  The percentage shares below are calculated from figures on total votes cast (including for minor candidates, write-ins, uncommitted, and similar categories) as reported in a Wikipedia entry (downloaded on March 14), and figures on state populations and on votes cast in November 2008 from the US Census Bureau.

It is well known that participation rates in primaries and especially in caucuses can be low; the point here is to show how low.  Particularly when one keeps in mind that the winner has rarely received more than 40% of the votes, relatively small organized interest groups have been able to exert a decisive impact on the outcomes, especially in the states holding caucuses.  The groups could be Christian fundamentalists, Tea Party supporters, those wanting unlimited access to guns, or others.  But as a result of the current selection process, such narrow but committed groups can play a decisive role in the selection of our presidential candidates.

It should therefore not be a surprise that successful candidates in such a selection process take positions that cater to such groups.

     votes as a share of: Population 2010 Voted in Nov 2008
ALABAMA Primary 17.4% 28.9%
ARIZONA Primary 9.5% 18.4%
FLORIDA Primary 11.8% 21.0%
GEORGIA Primary 12.4% 21.0%
MASSACHUSETTS Primary 7.1% 11.9%
MICHIGAN Primary 13.3% 20.5%
MISSISSIPPI Primary 13.4% 19.7%
MISSOURI Primary 5.6% 8.9%
NEW HAMPSHIRE Primary 24.3% 35.1%
OHIO Primary 13.8% 21.8%
OKLAHOMA Primary 10.6% 19.0%
SOUTH CAROLINA Primary 17.5% 28.8%
TENNESSEE Primary 11.6% 21.9%
VERMONT Primary 11.6% 18.4%
VIRGINIA Primary 4.5% 7.3%
ALASKA Caucus 2.6% 4.3%
COLORADO Caucus 1.8% 2.9%
HAWAII Caucus 1.0% 2.0%
IDAHO Caucus 4.0% 6.9%
IOWA Caucus 5.3% 8.1%
KANSAS Caucus 1.4% 2.4%
MAINE Caucus 0.6% 0.9%
MINNESOTA Caucus 1.2% 1.8%
NEVADA Caucus 1.7% 3.2%
NORTH DAKOTA Caucus 2.3% 3.5%
WASHINGTON Caucus 1.0% 1.7%
WYOMING Caucus 0.5% 0.8%