Ex­pect record turnout for 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion

Texarkana Gazette - - NATION/WORLD - By Nathan L. Gon­za­les

WASH­ING­TON—With the 2018 elec­tions com­ing to an end, it’s clear that vot­ers set a mod­ern record for turnout in a midterm. And there’s no rea­son to be­lieve vot­ers won’t set an­other record two years from now.

Ac­cord­ing to the United States Elec­tion Pro­ject, turnout this year was nearly 50 per­cent of the vot­ing-el­i­gi­ble pop­u­la­tion, the high­est for a midterm in more than a cen­tury.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­serves vir­tu­ally all of the credit for that mark. Vot­ers turned out en masse to op­pose him by vot­ing for Democrats, while oth­ers showed up to sup­port his GOP al­lies. That fun­da­men­tal dy­namic is un­likely to change when he pre­sum­ably runs for re-elec­tion in 2020.

Go­ing back to 1914—the last midterm year when turnout sur­passed 2018—the record for turnout in a pres­i­den­tial cy­cle was 63.8 per­cent in 1960, when John F. Kennedy de­feated Richard Nixon. For some com­par­i­son, turnout was 61.6 per­cent in 2008, when Illi­nois Sen. Barack Obama mo­bi­lized a new coali­tion of Demo­cratic vot­ers, and 60.1 per­cent in 2016 when Trump mo­bi­lized a new coali­tion of Repub­li­cans.

Two years from now, turnout will likely set a new mod­ern record that could dwarf pre­vi­ous ones.

Qual­i­ta­tively, the bases of both par­ties should be at a fever pitch be­cause of Trump and a po­ten­tially pro­gres­sive Demo­cratic nom­i­nee, with is­sues such as the Supreme Court, im­mi­gra­tion, health care and the econ­omy at the fore­front of peo­ple’s minds. And in­de­pen­dent vot­ers may feel pres­sure, af­ter four years, to take a stance for or against a po­lar­iz­ing pres­i­dent.

Quan­ti­ta­tively, the small­est dif­fer­ence be­tween turnout in a midterm and a sub­se­quent pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was 9 points be­tween the 1918 and 1920 elec­tions and the 1970 and 1972 elec­tions. That would put 2020 turnout at a min­i­mum of about 59 per­cent, just five points shy of the record.

Over the last cen­tury, the av­er­age dif­fer­ence in turnout be­tween a midterm and a sub­se­quent pres­i­den­tial elec­tion has been 16 points. That would pin 2020 turnout at about 66 per­cent, set­ting a new record. The largest dif­fer­ence was 23.4 points, from the 2014 midterm to the 2016 pres­i­den­tial. A sim­i­lar dy­namic would put 2020 turnout at a con­sid­er­able 73 per­cent, which would ri­val 1900, when GOP Pres­i­dent Wil­liam McKin­ley faced down Demo­crat Wil­liam Jen­nings Bryan in his win­ning re-elec­tion bid.

It’s too early to de­clare a win­ner in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial race, par­tic­u­larly with­out know­ing the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee. But as long as Trump is on the bal­lot and part of the con­ver­sa­tion, ex­pect an­other turnout record to be shat­tered.

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