I was reading this blog post (mostly because I was procrastinating and I got click-baited), and this particular statement jumped out at me.

Remember, the higher the turnout, the worse Republicans do.

Is this really the case? Is there a statistically significant correlation between how many people come out to vote and how poorly Republican candidates fare in elections?

1 Answer 1


Based on previous studies of elections, it tends to be because the nonvoting population, or those who tend to come out and vote only in presidential elections/amendments of interest, tend to lean more towards the democratic side. This usually comes down to quite a few factors, one of which is demographics; the Democratic party tends to garner much more support from younger generations, who overall have been found to not be as politically active. This difference is especially significant for the midterm elections, and is a theoretical reason for why democrats have in recent history done so poorly during these elections. An especially telling aspect of this is this statistic: Nonvoters favor Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a wide margin (59% to 24%) (while keeping in mind that voting for the president may not be indicative of voting for a Democratic congressman over a Republican congressman). What all this means is that, given all nonvoters turning up at the polls or at least in equal proportions based on the gathered data, the Democrats would benefit significantly more than the Republicans.



But to tie this into your question, there is no actual "correlation" that one can establish with any meaningful degree of accuracy, because there isn't enough meaningful data for it. The best you can do is establish conjecture through the information that is available. The claim that a greater volume of people typically identifying as nonvoters showing up would be more beneficial for the Democrats than the Republicans is accurate, if there was equal distribution, but that doesn't necessarily mean that a greater influx of voters would have turned the favor towards the Democrats.

  • FYI: Pew is NOT itself without bias (according to 538, their polls consistently trend left). Probably not enough to affect the meat of this answer, but important to keep in mind the source's consistent biases.
    – user5341
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 13:14
  • I am aware, and thank you for noting it. The reason why I presented the Pew articles is that they do a far better job of outlining both the area of interest (ie republican vs democrat lean including the independent nonvoter lean) and the demographics of the interviewed population, which gives a more broad view of the nonvoter population they gathered data on. And of course, any sociological study suffers from the potential for selection bias.
    – Kasierith
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 15:27
  • 1
    I don't understand the your claim in the last paragraph that it isn't possible to establish a correlation between voter attendance and Republican votes. Sounds straightforward.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 22:13
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    Because saying that there was a direct correlation would be going beyond conjecture. With these elections, they could have swung towards the Democrats by having a lower voter turnout overall if less Republican voters were interested. There isn't really any reliable existing direct correlation between number of voters and overall political direction. My conclusion was contingent on the existing data of voter distribution, on the assumption that an even distribution of typical nonvoters came to the polls. In other words, it is a flawed answer due to the flawed nature of the premise.
    – Kasierith
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 22:32
  • @DVK that's a bit of a misinterpretation of the ratings. Pew was still one of the most highly rated of the pollsters on the list in terms of accuracy. Most of the pollsters on the list have SOME inherent bias, but these are more often than not due to surveying methods, rather than intentional slant. In fact, a lot of the pollsters with little to no bias have extremely low accuracy ratings.
    – TonyArra
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 7:55

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