March 22nd, 2012

Turnout in the Illinois primary

I keep reading it, over and over: the Republican turnout in Tuesday’s Illinois primary was low. Sometimes the report is “record low.” That would be a problem for Romney or the eventual nominee, whomever it might be, and would indicate a lack of voter enthusiasm on the part of the base.

This sort of thing has been written in the comments of this blog. Here’s one example:

As Alifa pointed out above, turnout was low. Indeed, I heard the IL Sec of State or whoever heads up the election squad quoted that this was a record low turnout.

Romney started the campaign of Repub personal destruction, and this is likely the result….why bother to vote in the primary, since they’re all bums?

We are becoming Venezuelans. Discouragement leads to apathy.

Here’s another example, from the blog Gateway Pundit. There are many, many others.

It’s the meme du jour (that is, the meme du last Tuesday). Only problem is, it’s not true.

So how did this rumor begin? Some of the perception seems to be based on articles such as this one from CBS. It makes it sound as though turnout in general, as well as on the Republican side, was very low. But notice an interesting detail: the article only talks about the city of Chicago.

This one, written yesterday, seems to be saying that turnout was very low not just in Chicago, but at the state level:

Illinois voters, at least the ones who bothered to show up, did the math and wound up backing Mitt Romney, a candidate they see as less than thrilling but still the Republican Party’s best chance of capturing the White House this fall.

Turnout seems likely to be among the lowest in decades — perhaps the lowest, period. The record low in state records dating back to 1960 is 23 percent, which happened two years ago. Officials in several election districts said Tuesday’s turnout was hovering around 20 percent.

But later on the article drops a first hint of what’s really going on, although its significance could easily be missed [emphasis mine]:

The city of Chicago, overwhelmingly Democratic, might end up with its lowest turnout since World War II. Officials said turnout was 22.8 percent, with just 1 percent of precincts left to count as of early Wednesday morning.

The lack of statewide races beyond the presidential contest likely played a role in holding down turnout, particularly among Democrats. It was the first Illinois primary since 2000 that didn’t include a race for U.S. Senate or governor.

Aha! So now we learn more explicitly that it is total turnout they’re talking about, and that there’s a special reason why the Democratic turnout would be so depressed: not only is Obama a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination, but there are no statewide contests, unlike in previous years.

One would think, since it’s really only the Republican battle that anyone’s paying much attention to, that an article about turnout would focus on Republican turnout. But I’ve seen very few that mention that separately. It’s hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that this is purposeful, because it’s such a glaring omission when you finally spot it. The goal? My guess is that it’s to have the reader think turnout on the Republican side was low, which is a demoralizing message to the Republican Party. Perhaps the hope is that it will even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, it could also be mere stupidity, but I don’t think so.

And that especially low turnout in Chicago? Probably because Chicago is so overwhelmingly Democratic.

So, what was the level of Republican turnout in Illinois on Tuesday? Pretty darn high:

Romney actually won more votes in Illinois than John McCain did in 2008 and the number of Republican voters who went to the polls also exceeded turnout four years ago…While turnout in Chicago apparently was extremely low, that wasn’t the case for the entire state. Republican turnout was about 2.5% higher compared to four years ago, based on the latest state returns.

The Republican vote also surpassed the primary totals in 2004 and 2000.

In 2004, President George W. Bush won 583,575 votes in an uncontested primary. And in 2000, the Republican vote totaled 736,921 in a contested election that pitted Bush vs. McCain and several other candidates.

The increase in the Illinois vote cannot be attributed to population growth. The Democratic-leaning state’s population has grown less than 4% in the past 12 years, according to U.S. Census data.

The upshot is, Republicans are turning out to vote at similar levels to 2008 regardless of whether they are enthusiastic about their choice of candidates. Vote totals are generally higher in the Midwest while participation is mixed in the South.

Turnout in Illinois, Ohio and Michigan , for example, was higher in 2012. It was also higher in Alabama and Mississippi but lower in Florida and Tennessee.

The article goes on to say that higher turnout in the primaries isn’t necessarily correlated with winning the general. Of course not. But let’s get our facts straight about what the turnout actually was before we talk about what it means or doesn’t mean. And don’t count on most of the MSM to help us out in that endeavor.

[NOTE: Don’t misconstrue this post to mean I think the Republican electorate is exceptionally excited and inspired by the current slate of candidates. But I like to deal in facts, and the fact is that Republican turnout in Illinois was just fine. Perhaps the inspiration for Republican voters comes from the prospect of unseating Obama in 2012.]

23 Responses to “Turnout in the Illinois primary”

  1. momo Says:

    My lack of enthusiasm for the primaries is because …
    1) I don’t care for any of these candidates.
    2) I don’t care if the Republican candidate sacrifices babies to the dark-god Marduk, I am still voting for them come November.
    However, realistically … my state has their primary too late to matter and my state is a lock for the Dems. So, my votes don’t count.

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    momo: that’s an interesting combo, and I think it’s one shared by quite a few people this year. Indifference and lack of enthusiasm about the Republican candidates vis a vis each other, but a strong dedication to voting for the Republican nominee in the general.

  3. Conrad Says:

    The spinning of the turnout numbers is another favorite tactic of the Romney-haters. Supposedly, low turnout means the GOP electorate is unenthusiastic — but only about ROMNEY. Of course, logic would suggest that if the GOP is unenthusiastic about Romney, it is even less enthusiastic about Santorum and Gingrich, since they are each getting fewer people to the polls than Mitt is.

    I actually am beginning to think that a lot of the Romney-hating we see in blog comments is part of a huge false-flag operation. I think liberal trolls may well be creating accounts and leaving comments all over the conservative blogosphere simply for the purposes of announcing that they won’t for Mitt if he’s the GOP nominee. They would love to sort of legitimize this position within the convervative fold in the hope of convincing maybe 5-10% of conservatives that withholding support for Romney is the sensible, “principled” thing to do this November.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Conrad: I agree.

  5. Conrad Says:

    Just to elaborate a bit on my “false-flag” theory, it seems to me that the number of anonymous blog commenters who say they won’t vote if Mitt is the nominee is infinitely greater than the number of KNOWN conservatives who take that position. I’m actually not aware of any Republican bloggers, pundits, or activists who are so turned off by the prospect of Mitt as the nominee (or so seemingly indifferent to the prospect of a second term for Obama) that they have said they won’t support him if he wins the nomination. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of folks rooting for Santorum, Newt, or some new candidate to somehow overtake Romney. But when I read comments at sites like Legal Insurrection, etc., it is not uncommon at all to find two or three commenters saying that they’ll simply stay at home if Mitt is at the top of the ticket. If the idea of boycotting Mitt in November were as prevalent within the GOP as the comment threads suggest, I don’t understand why no well-known conservative seems to embrace it. And frankly, I’m having trouble seeing how a rational GOP voter could really arrive at the conclusion that Mitt is “just as bad” as Obama, or that Mitt somehow is so far to the left of Rick and Newt as to make it impossible to vote for him even against Obama. It just doesn’t add up.

  6. Sangiovese Says:

    I went to see Romney in Lake County (north of Chicago) last Sunday. My wife is a Romney supporter and I was lukewarm at best. I was somewhat surprised to find Romney quite personable and down to earth in person. He didn’t come across as the stiff candidate that we see on TV. I was only about 20 feet from where he was speaking and observed his body language during the Q & A. Perhaps practice has made him better, or perhaps I’m easily fooled, but he seemed like a genuine person who really listened and responded to the questions. I went into the meeting ready to vote for Gingrich. And left with a Romney button, some yard signs and a decision to vote for Romney in the IL primary. The polling place on Tuesday was neither packed nor empty. I went about 9AM and found about 70% of the voting booths occupied but no line to get a ballot. About normal for our neck of the woods in a purple-ish northern Chicago suburb.

  7. JuliB Says:

    I was going to attribute it to the fact that our vote never counts. But, since our turn-out was higher than reported, I think it has to be the ABO factor.

    One thing people don’t realize is that an awful lot of Dems register as Repubs here so that they can weak our candidates. But this election makes me wonder whether these wolves in sheep’s clothing may actually pull the R lever come November. One can only hope…

  8. lethargic Says:

    They allow Republican primaries in Chicago? Whoda thunk …

  9. Occam's Beard Says:

    I actually am beginning to think that a lot of the Romney-hating we see in blog comments is part of a huge false-flag operation.

    C’mon, Conrad, would the Reds try to manipulate the democratic (small “d”) process? That would be dishonest and underhanded.

  10. Pat Says:

    ABO sums it up. Romney can get a lift if he selects the likes of Rubio as VP.

  11. Don Carlos Says:

    Your leadoff link was to my comment. So I got mislead by an IL Dem politician pretending objectivity. Who’da thunk it? I got sucked in.
    But you left off my close in your quote: ABO.

  12. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos: oh, I know; I wasn’t meaning to spotlight your decisions about voting. I was merely meaning to spotlight that most of us have been misled by the reports into thinking turnout on the Republican side was light. I would have thought it myself if I hadn’t come across information to the contrary, almost by chance.

  13. Beverly Says:

    Great catch, Neo.

    It’s all about selecting which part of the picture to frame, and concealing the rest. I agree that it’s deliberate in this case.

  14. Parker Says:

    “Sometimes the report is “record low.” That would be a problem for Romney or the eventual nominee, whomever it might be, and would indicate a lack of voter enthusiasm on the part of the base.”

    As Conrad has noted, its bogus MSM BS. The ‘base’ is ABO.

  15. SteveH Says:

    When you see the bag of tricks deployed by the MSM on a regular basis, who doubts a stated 41% approval of Obama isn’t really closer to 34%?

    Progressives all over are going down in a landslide and it will all be because of… guessed it……racismmmmm.

  16. CZ Says:

    Back when I lived in Crook County in The People’s Republic of Illinois it was common knowledge that IF you took a republican primary ballot you were moved to the top of the list for jury duty.

    Nobody told me so I learned the hard way but by then it was too late. I sat on a jury once a year for six years.

  17. Trimegistus Says:

    I have developed a useful method for reading news which has not failed me for years now. When reading any story, one simply asks oneself: how does this serve liberal goals?

    Once you start, it’s impossible not to notice the bias, dishonesty, and loaded language they use.

  18. expat Says:

    I know Nanny Bloomberg won’t like this, but I tend to take any reporting containg numbers and statistics with about a half shaker of salt. Pollers and reporters rarely give enough baseline info for you to judge their conclusions.

  19. Pat Says:

    Thanks for the research. I was pleased to point my wife to your reporting.

  20. Jan of MN Says:

    I haven’t had occasion to vote in a primary this year, but until now I haven’t been able to support anyone. Why go to the polls when you haven’t made up your mind? I think the volatility during this primary season is largely due to the stakes being so high: we judge our candidates on whether or not they can beat Obama. Compared to that concern, everything pales in importance. I’ve wobbled over choosing a candidate, but no matter which one is the nominee, I’ll crawl over broken glass to vote for him.
    Trimegistus: Back when I was in a liberal bubble, I never noticed the bias because it just seemed to be the correct take on things. Once the bubble bursts though, you’re smack up against reality, like it or not. Naturally, one does come to prefer reality, and you can’t ever get inside the bubble again. Good thing, too, because I actually believe political correctness is bad for one’s mental health.

  21. Frances Says:

    Open primaries are ruining this country. The Dems rush into vote for the weakest candidate. I, as an Ind., did this several years ago in NC for John Edwards. Now he’s on his way to jail and I won’t get to vote for him anymore! I also did it during Operation Chaos 4 yrs. ago.
    John Eff-ing McCain won nearly all the Open Primay states 4 years ago. He should be the ‘Poster Child’ for banning them altogether. Better to have serious voters at the polls.

  22. BillZ Says:

    It’s interesting you did the journalist’s work of comparing actual numbers (vs the so-called journalists). So this looks like a meme perpetuating itself: is it laziness or deliberate or some of both? It has the advantage of acting as a psyops against Obama’s opponents, or maybe it’s just wish fulfillment posing as knowledge.

  23. Ymarsakar Says:

    How many of the turnouts were Republicans vs Democrats?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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