First Look at Voter Turnout

This entry is cross-posted from the blog Data @ New America.

It's hard to believe that the 2012 election concluded just one week ago, but it's really over! The final vote delivered re-election to Barack Obama, winning 332 electoral votes to Mitt Romney's 206. Despite only leading Romney by two-to-three points in the popular vote, Obama managed to clinch the election with strong showings in several swing states, padding his electoral college victory. The 2012 returns reveal that the coalition that delivered Obama the presidency four years ago has lessened — the map was nearly identical save for Indiana and North Carolina, which voted for the Republican ticket this time around. But what about turnout? Clearly the president convinced enough voters to come to the polls, but how does it compare with his 2008 victory?

Calculating turnout can be tricky business in the days following an election. States have a few weeks to certify their vote totals before the Electoral College convenes on January 8. They need this time to count not only early votes and the votes from Election Day, but also absentee and provisional ballots that can further increase turnout figures.

Despite this, we decided to take a crack at a preliminary look at turnout compared to the 2008 election. With some help from eligible voter figures from the United States Election Project and the latest voter tally figure from POLITICO, we were able to create a map that revealed how turnout had changed in the 2012 election. (You might ask, why POLITICO? Well, no definitive data sets are available for download or purchase and POLITICO's state-by-state presidential vote figures included both Romney, Obama, and the other minor third-party candidates in an easy to cut-and-paste-into-Excel format).

Turnout is pretty interesting, but the coolest thing we pulled off with our latest map is we made our first cartogram. Cartograms are unique because they warp the shapes of geography on a map based on a data point for that shape. For example, in our cartogram of voter turnout, the state of Wyoming is not its usual rectangle shape. Instead, it's imploded quite a bit because we sized the states relative to the votes counted for Election Day. that's why a state like Wyoming is imploded while Florida looks like it needs to go on a diet.

Cartograms are pretty cool and we're looking forward to making lots more for future maps. Check it out:

If States Were as Big as Their Vote Counts

Tuesday delivered President Barack Obama to the White House for a second term, but fewer voters turned out in this presidential election than the last. While 131 million people voted in 2008, about 120 million (and counting) voted in this election, according to preliminary data. The map above shows how the 2012 electoral map would look if states were sized according to the number of votes cast in them.


Mouse over each state to see its turnout rate. The country as a whole saw a 58-percent turnout rate, down 4 percent from the last presidential election, according to the Associated Press.