I was watching a Last Week Tonight video on the 2016 DNC and saw this YouTube comment with 600 votes:

9% of the us population decided our presidential nominees are going to be Clinton and Trump. That is incredibly disappointing. (commenter was citing the New York Times).

Is this accurate? Did only 9% of the entire US population vote in the primaries this year for one of the two candidates?

  • 1
    Better than the uk, where 0.0005% of the population voted in the election for prime minister.
    – James K
    Aug 2, 2016 at 23:56
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    While not relevant to the truthiness of this claim, "9% of the entire US population" seems like a meaningless standard. Many Americans are too young to vote, or live in states where only party members can vote in primaries, or states where ex-felons cannot vote. Also, the US has the highest incarceration rates in the world and there are many state-level restrictions on voting. ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/… A more accurate figure would require research, but I feel would be more effectively bleak.
    – Will
    Aug 3, 2016 at 0:17
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    @Will you asked the same thing I did in the answer. I would say great minds and all, but I don't really think mine is great, so I will just say I must have copied you. :)
    – JasonR
    Aug 3, 2016 at 12:14
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    @JamesK that's the nature of parliamentary democracies - the citizenry do not directly elect a leader. Aug 4, 2016 at 16:35
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    @JamesK. 0.0005% is way better than the 0% that voted for the prime minister in 2007 :)
    – daveb
    Aug 5, 2016 at 9:40

1 Answer 1


Approximately 13 million primary voters cast votes for Trump. Approximately 16 million primary voters cast votes for Clinton. (Source)

In total, approximately 62 million people voted in the primaries. Pew Research says 57.6 million (and compares to previous elections).

The US population in 2016 is approximately 324 million.

How many could have voted?

According to Voting Statistics, and the Census Bureau (2012 data):

Total number of Americans eligible to vote: 218,959,000

Total number of Americans registered to vote: 146,311,000


enter image description here

This visualization gives a step-by-step breakdown of these groups of people.

  • 1
    Out of those 324 million though, how many are eligible to vote? I think that would be the more accurate measure.
    – JasonR
    Aug 3, 2016 at 12:03
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    @JasonR The claim is "9% of the population". Aug 3, 2016 at 13:16
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    @JasonR Nice edit, I think it answers the spirit of the claim if not the letter. Still proves how truly dismal this election has been. Now I'm wondering how this compares to 2008...
    – Will
    Aug 3, 2016 at 13:50
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    @Will this is an interesting set of graphs as well: pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/08/02/…
    – JasonR
    Aug 3, 2016 at 15:10
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    tables should be added to SE for this reason.
    – J.Todd
    Aug 5, 2016 at 9:42

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