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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: THURSDAY, JULY 16, 2015

Census Bureau Reports Congressional Voting Turnout is at Lowest Mark Since 1978

Release Number CB15-122
Component ID: #ti1553075231

July 16, 2015 — The 2014 congressional election turnout rate of 41.9 percent was the lowest since the U.S. Census Bureau first began asking Americans about voting and citizenship status in 1978. The 2014 voting rate was 7.0 percentage points lower than in 1978 and down from the 45.5 percent that reported voting in the 2010 congressional election.

These statistics come from Who Votes? Congressional Elections and the American Electorate: 1978-2014, which uses data collected by the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. This report provides a detailed historical portrait of voters in congressional elections, and it examines voting patterns by age, race and Hispanic origin and includes a look at early and absentee voting.

The voting rates of every age group between 18 and 64 also dropped between 1978 and 2014, while the voting rate in 2014 for those over 65 was not statistically different from 1978. In 2014, the voting rate for the 65-and-older age group was 59.4 per­cent compared with 23.1 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds. For more information on voting trends by age, see Figure 4 in the report.

“In recent congressional elections, we’ve seen low levels of engagement among young people and the opposite for older Americans,” said Thom File, a Census Bureau sociologist and the report’s author. “These age differences cut across racial and ethnic groups as well. Regardless of whether we’re looking at non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks or Hispanics, voting rates tend to increase significantly with age.”

The report also explores early and absentee voting. In the most recent congressional election of 2014, nearly a third (31.2 percent) of all voters reported either voting early, voting by mail or using some other form of voting. This was about a threefold increase from 1996, when only 10.5 percent of voters reported voting by alternative methods.

In addition to the report, the release also includes a detailed table package. Highlights from these tables include:

  • Voting rates for non-Hispanic whites — the largest portion of the electorate — have declined from 50.6 percent in 1978 to 45.8 percent in 2014. The group voted at a rate higher than their eligibility by 6.4 percentage points in 2014.
  • Voting rates for Hispanics declined from 1978 to 2014, dropping to a rate lower than their eligibility by 4.1 percentage points in the 2014 election.
  • Being married with a spouse living in the household corresponded to higher voting rates (50.9 percent) in 2014, particularly in comparison with those who reported having never been married (25.9 percent).
  • In 2014, reported voting rates were also high among those with advanced degrees (62.0 percent) and those who had lived in their current home for five years or longer (57.2 percent). The top tier of the voting rate distribution also included government workers (56.5 percent) and military veterans (54.2 percent). The voting rate of government workers was not statistically different from the voting rates of those who had lived in their home for five years or longer.
  • Additional data for race groups are available via the detailed tables.

Component ID: #ti2143319024

About the Current Population Survey

The Current Population Survey has collected data on voting and voter registration in November of even-numbered election years since 1964 and provides voting estimates alongside other population characteristics, including age, sex, race and educational attainment.

As in all surveys, these statistics are subject to sampling and nonsampling error. The strength of Census Bureau voting statistics is that they look at voters’ social and demographic characteristics, which are not available from an official vote tally. The estimates of total voters presented in this report may differ from those based on administrative data or exit polls for a variety of methodological reasons. For more information, see the sections of the report on Source and Accuracy of the Data.

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Contact


Public Information Office

301-763-3030

pio@census.gov

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