A drop in voter turnout in Tuesday’s election didn’t keep President Barack Obama from winning a second term.
Preliminary figures suggest fewer people voted this year than four years ago, when voters shattered turnout records as they elected Obama to his first term.
By the way, turnout was huge in 2004, with white people enthusiastically going to the polls. The 2008 turnout, in contrast, was vast among nonwhites, with white turnout tepid. But 2012 seems down from both the last two elections, although it's still early in counting every last vote process, so this current perception shouldn't be taken as carved in granite.
In most states, the numbers were even lower than in 2004, said Curtis Gans, director of American University’s Center for the Study of the American Electorate. Every state but Iowa is showing a smaller turnout than in 2008, Gans said. Still, the full picture may not be known for weeks because much of the counting takes place after Election Day.
‘‘This was a major plunge in turnout nationally,’’ said Gans, who estimated about 126 million Americans voted, for an overall turnout rate of about 57.5 percent.
In Arizona, almost 19 percent fewer people cast ballots than in 2008. In Maryland, where voters approved a ballot measure allowing gay marriage, turnout in the presidential race was running more than 7 percentage points behind 2008. Alaska saw a drop-off of nearly 25 percent over four years ago, when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was the Republican vice-presidential nominee.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, The Associated Press’ figures showed about 119.5 million people had voted in the White House race, but that number will increase as more votes are counted. In 2008, 131 million people cast ballots for president, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Experts calculate turnout in different ways based on who they consider eligible voters. A separate, preliminary estimate from George Mason University’s Michael McDonald put the 2012 turnout rate at 60 percent of eligible voters, a drop-off of more than 2 percentage points from 2008. McDonald said the 2012 figure would likely be revised as absentee votes were counted.