What percentage of the population voted in 2000?

shunra asked this question on 11/20/2000:

what percentage of eligible voters actually voted in the presidential election this year?

Filetto@..., a user from, asked this question on 11/27/2000:

What reference book or on-line web site could I utilize, to find out how many registered voters there are in the U.S. and how many of them are Republicans and or Democrats?
Thank you, Frankie D.

JesseGordon gave this response on 11/28/2000:

The numbers:

102 million people voted. That yields the widely-reported 52% figure.

123 million people were registered to vote. That's 62% of the eligible population.

198 million people are eligible to register. So 83% of those registered actually voted.

275 million people live in America (80 million are under 18 or otherwise ineligible).

I don't know how many registered as Dems vs Reps, but a large number also registered as "unaffiliated" or "independent" -- I hear that figure is higher than either party this year.

About 52% of Americans voted.

That figure is widely reported, but I think it's very misleading. It means 52% of the eligible population actually voted. The "eligible population" simply means the number of adult citizens, which is about 198 million. Of that group, 102 million voted in this election. In other words, if you asked a random group of adults on the street, just over half would say they voted.

The reason that's misleading is that not every adult is eligible to vote. First, you have to register. Second, you can only vote in your place of residence, so if you've just moved, you have to do an absentee ballot or register a month or so prior to the election.

A less misleading statistic would be the one which is never reported -- the percentage of registered voters who actually voted. In 1998, 62% of the elegible population was registered to vote. Assuming the same figure is true this year, that means that 83% of all registered voters actually voted in this election. That means, if you asked a random group of registered voters, 5 out of 6 of them would say that yes, they voted.

Separating out the percentage who REGISTER to vote, from the percentage who actually vote, separates the widely-reported 52% figure into two distinct issues:
1) What percentage of people register?
and 2) What percentage of registered voters actually vote?

The answer to question (2), 83%, isn't nearly as dismaying as the widely-reported 52% figure. 83% says to me that most people who do register, actually do vote.

The answer to question (1), 62%, indicates to me that the source of the problem is the difficulty of registration. In other words, the solution to low voter turnout is to make registration easier. I would question why we need to register at all -- many countries do not. And if we do need to, why does it have to be a month in advance?


Population statistics from

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