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Voter Turnout: A Critical Analysis of the Presidential Elections of 1988, 1996, and 2004

Travis W. Hall

Ashford University

Political Science 411

Paul Edleman

June 26, 2012

Voter Turnout: A Critical Analysis of the Presidential Elections of 1988, 1996, and 2004

Every presidential election is unique to its times but similar to each election before it in that key each candidate must recognize the key factors that will affect voter turnout. After all, it is voter turnout that legitimizes the candidate as President. Each incumbent and candidate, then, must garner as many votes as he can. Given that the United States consists of millions of potential voters, it is easier to break the masses up into blocs based on demographics. For the purposes of this discussion, the key demographic groups based on gender and race will be shown to be evolving each election cycle, yet voting consistently for a given party each time. Another consistent variable in these three elections is the state of the economy at the time of the election. Generally speaking, incumbents and prospective candidates alike are at the mercy of the state of the economy. Though there are constants in every cycle, the issues of the day can tip the balance of power in every election. In 2004, the Iraq War divided the country down partisan lines and nearly cost the incumbent the presidency. The voter turnout of the 1988, 1996, and 2004 elections varied, it will be argued, as a confluence of these seemingly disparate, yet intricately connected variables.

The 1988 Election

Though this race was between George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis, the 1988 election had more to do with the political environment that was created under eight years of Ronald Reagan's leadership. Out of a total of 182,630, 00 voters, total turnout was 50.1 percent (presidency.ucsb.edu., n.d.). Given that the total average of voter turnout from 1972 through 2008 has been roughly 53 percent, the 1988 election was lower than average....