2020 Political Post–Dem Primary Turnout Numbers

So tomorrow is the next set of primaries after this year’s Super Tuesday, where Biden came storming back to take a small lead in delegates after being seen by many as already toast.

biden sanders3-9-2020 dem primary map

For me, as always, there are the numbers to analyze.  And so I have. Important points to note:

  1. If we look at the 13 states that have voted so far that have had primaries (not caucuses) since 2008, we see that Bernie has won 4 and Biden has won 9 (Minn and CO had caucuses before, but primaries this year.  Nevada and
  2. Compared to 2016, 11 of these states have had increased turnout, with only Oklahoma and California having a decline in turnout in the Dem. primaries.
  3. Compared to 2008–which set turnout records in Dem. primaries, 6 of the states have increased turnout.
  4. 2016 turnout was actually poor compared to 2008, with 12 states having lower turnout than 2008.  Thus, 2020 turnout is much closer to record 2008 levels than to the low 2016 levels.
  5. Absolute turnout numbers in 2020 were significantly higher in many states, with the one HUGE exception being California–where they were lower by nearly 20%–or a million votes.  This likely doesn’t make a difference for California in the general, because it’s so blue.
  6. Many have argued that Sanders is crucial for getting increased turnout, but the numbers don’t clearly argue for this.  Altogether, in the 5 states that Bernie won primaries in, total turnout is down by ~764,000 votes, with the big drag being California’s missing 900,000 voters .  In contrast, voter turnout in states that Biden won is up by ~1,844,000 votes–with increases in Texas 640k and in VA by 540k.   Now it could be that Sanders has also gotten more young people (18-29) to vote than last time–but they still only made up 12.5% of the primary voters so far, even though they make up 25% of the voting age population–so it’s not a major factor yet..  In comparison, people over age 65 are 20% of the voting age population, and they have made up 30% of primary voters.   Retired folks are just kicking the youngins’ asses in terms of actually voting.  Bernie CANNOT WIN unless young people vote at least their proportion of the population.
  7. Of the new people voting–Biden appears (in a model here ) to be attracting 60% of the people who didn’t vote in 2016, but are voting now–and these people appear to be older, suburban voters and African Americans–i.e. the people who showed up in 2018 to give the Dems the house.

Overall inferences from these numbers are the following:
a) Turnout is up–this is good for Dems–as it is the single biggest factor that determines whether Dems win or lose.
b) Biden is doing well because people want Trump out and the people coming out to vote in the primaries think Biden can do it best.  Opinions about whether they’re correct mean less than the actual votes being cast–and Biden is doing great with the actual voters who vote.
c) Sanders is going to need to something big tomorrow–like winning Michigan–if he is going to stay around much longer, much less to regain the momentum.

He’s not out yet–but he really needs to bring it NOW.

About Prof. Woland

I contain multitudes. Come meet us.
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