Primary Turnout Means Nothing For The General Election | FiveThirtyEight

But Democratic Party elites shouldn’t be high-fiving each other. They should be very, very worried. In primary after primary this cycle, Democratic voters just aren’t showing up.

 

Republican turnout is up and Democratic turnout is down in the 2016 primary contests so far. That has some Republicans giddy for the fall; here’s an example, from a March 1 Washington Times article:

 

But Democrats shouldn’t worry. Republicans shouldn’t celebrate. As others have pointed out, voter turnout is an indication of the competitiveness of a primary contest, not of what will happen in the general election. The GOP presidential primary is more competitive than the Democratic race.

 

Indeed, history suggests that there is no relationship between primary turnout and the general election outcome. You can see this on the most basic level by looking at raw turnout in years in which both parties had competitive primaries. There have been six of those years in the modern era: 1976, 1980, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008.

 

Republicans continued to shatter turnout records in their presidential primaries and caucuses Tuesday, while Democrats lagged behind in what analysts said was a clear indication of an enthusiasm gap heading into the general election.

 

 

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