The Corner

Politics & Policy

GOP Presidential Primary Turnout Is Going to Be… How High?

Yesterday, I pointed out the “likely caucus-goer” screens on the recent Iowa polls seemed at least a little loose – if you project out the caucus participation rate from the sample to the entire population of registered voters or Iowa adults, you get turnout of 500,000 to 640,000 — when the previous high was about 360,000 in 2008. 

Patrick Ruffini looks at the fine print of the new CNN national poll, touting results of  “Republican voters” – with no likely voter screen – and calculates that extrapolating from this poll results in a GOP presidential primary turnout of… 96 million.

JPod observes the actual turnout in the 2012 Republican presidential primary was… about 20 million.

It’s easy to believe that turnout could increase this cycle. Donald Trump could bring in a lot of new voters, and considering the turnout at his events, it seems likely that some voters who tuned out the Romneys and Santorums and Gingriches of past cycles might take an interest in this year’s GOP contest. Opposition to Trump could bring in a lot of new voters, too. Maybe Latinos become a bit more interested in voting in the GOP primary with Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio as options. Perhaps Ben Carson’s extraordinary life outside the political arena brings in some new voters.

But we’re not likely to see turnout double or triple compared to 2012. The good news is we’ll know a bit more a week from now after the Iowa caucuses, some more in two weeks after New Hampshire votes, and by the night of February 20, when the South Carolina primary returns are in, we’ll have a clearer sense of whether turnout is much higher than in 2012, a little higher, about the same, or, theoretically, lower.

Most Popular


The 24 Democrats

Every presidential primary ends with one winner and a lot of losers. Some might argue that one or two once-little-known candidates who overperform low expectations get to enjoy a form of moral victory. (Ben Carson and Rick Perry might be happy how the 2016 cycle ended, with both taking roles in Trump’s cabinet. ... Read More