The Edge: Competitive Edge Blog

Final Turnout Projection for San Diego

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My final turnout projection for the City of San Diego in today’s June Primary election is 25% to 27%. Turnout will be about 2% higher in City Council Districts 2 and 6, which are hosting competitive races. Turnout should be about 1% to 2% higher in the County of San Diego than it is in the City.

The reasons for this lackluster performance – voter fatigue, a lack of sexy issues up and down the ballot, non-races at the statewide level – have been discussed in this blog. I’ll add that the open primary format – if it was intended to boost participation — has been a dismal failure this year. When you’re not calling on the electorate to actually decide a winner, many voters react by saying “wake me up when we get to November.”

How does low turnout affect outcomes? Republicans have the advantage in low turnout elections. The slice of the electoral pie that is GOP will be 10% bigger than it would be in an election with maximum turnout. That’s a huge leveler for Republicans.

To put a finer point on it, it’s not so much that Republicans are inherently more civic minded. The turnout advantage relates more to age: Republicans (on average) are older than Democrats who are, in turn, older than non-partisans. Because older folks vote more regularly, Republicans benefit in low turnout elections. The GOP’s advantage will eventually ebb once the non-partisans become seniors (unless they change their registration).

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