A Look at Voter Turnout in Tuesday’s Primaries

VoteThe state’s Democratic Party outnumbers the PA GOP by more than 900,000 registered voters, but Republicans turned in better participation rates in all federal and statewide elections on Tuesday.

1,643,180 Democrats voted in the presidential race out of more than 4 million registered Democrats, a 40.45% voter turnout rate.

Across the aisle, 49.5% of Republicans showed up at the polls, with over 1.56 million of the  3,162,164 registered with the GOP making their pick for the presidential nomination.

28.1% of PA Republicans turned out for Republican front-runner (and self-declared presumptive nominee) Donald Trump, who won the race over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich 57-22-19%, respectively.

Hillary Clinton – who is now almost certain to win the Democratic nomination at the second time of asking – beat Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by 12 points (55.5%-43.5%), picking up just 22.5% of the state’s total Democratic base.

In the 2012 general election, almost 3 million Democrats turned out to re-elect Barack Obama and 2.68 million Republicans voted for Mitt Romney. President Obama defeated Romney by a five-point margin, 52-47%.

Almost 150K Democrats voted for a presidential candidate but not for a Senate candidate. Turnout in the Democratic Senate race, won by Katie McGinty, was under 37%, while 41.7% of Republicans voted for Sen. Pat Toomey in his unopposed race for the GOP nomination.

McGinty won the Democratic nomination with support from just 16% of the state’s Democratic base.

Voter turnout in the hotly contested Democratic AG race was similar to the Senate race at 37.1%, with just over 1.5 million casting votes. The victor, Montco Commissioner Josh Shapiro, was backed by 17.5% of all registered Democrats in the state.

40% of PA Republicans voted in the closer-than-expected-but-still-not-close GOP AG primary. State Sen. John Rafferty picked up the nomination with support from just over a quarter of registered GOP voters.

Two-fifths of registered Republicans also cast ballots for Congress, with more than 1.25 million voting in congressional primaries in 16 districts.

Just 26.5% of registered Democrats voted in congressional primaries. Just 14 districts had Democratic candidates for the U.S. House, eliciting a little over a million votes.

Obviously, both parties will hope for higher turnouts in November – when over a million non-major party voters in the state will be able to participate – and will look to their presidential nominees to push the vote down-ballot.

As of a week ago, PA also has more than 665K voters with no political affiliation and almost 420K registered with third-parties.

10 Responses

  1. Clinton won Erie County by just 2,000 votes. Record Republican turnout and crossover Dems will crush this old hag in November. She’ll be under indictment in the new Trump administration.

  2. lilbyrdie-

    For Presidential, the Dems turnout out about 80% of active. The R’s about 85% of active, and the Indys are about 65% of active.

    The Greens are equal or slightly below the average of non-major-party participation. So, for all the energy they have tying themselves to trees, dressing up in costumes, blockading roads or offices, they don’t do a good job of getting off their asses on election day.

  3. As a committee woman who has worked the turn out the buyer and also been an election official, I concur with David Diano’s distinction between active and inactive voters as the true indicator of turnout in each party. For years, I checked for a long-graduated student to see how well the county purging system was doing. He was still in the voting book, and not voting, at least eight years after he left Ursinus and the area. I had thought voters were purged after 4 years of inactivity. It’s illuminating to learn it takes 8 years.
    We also know that in Collegeville, and probably in any town/borough with a student population, we only get decent turnout in presidential years. Falloffs are most dramatic in local elections, both general and primary. That of course is when student vote would make the most difference, but it’s hard to make that case to students. One final point, what percentage of the turnout in general elections are independent/other party? Thanks for your useful service, David.

  4. Montco PA Dem

    1) This race was lower stakes, as Hillary had it in the bag, for the state and delegates

    2) Bernie is no Obama

    3) Bernie didn’t put squat into resources compared to Obama. In Delco, Obama had a huge office space months BEFORE doing voter registration, and was bustling. Bernie’s local office was in an abandoned radio shack, and I never saw more than 4 people in there at a time.

    4) Bernie had a crappy ground game based on rallies that ate up thousands of man hours of supporters standing in lines, instead of making calls, dropping lit, and knocking doors. All part of rhetoric without “get it done”.

    5) missed opportunity to endorse Fetterman showed his talk of “revolution” was all bullshit, as he wouldn’t even talk about Fetterman to help him. #fail

  5. I understand the discrepancy and changes in registrations through the years, but this is actual votes cast. The differences in just 8 years seem incredible.

  6. Montco PA Dem

    Hundreds of thousands of R’s switched to D to vote in 2008 primary. The D vs R counts have been skewed for years and not representative of party strength, because people didn’t bother to switch back. How could we have lost in 2010 if we REALLY had a 1 million voter advantage?

  7. Comparing 2016 and 2008 statewide votes cast for President in the primary, it looks like Republican voters were up by around 750,000 and Democrats were down by around 700,000. Please check my math, but I think that’s accurate — if it is, why the difference?

  8. Jason Addy-

    With all due respect… 4 million is the wrong denominator to use.

    It’s the same mistake every analyst makes, so don’t feel bad.

    The CORRECT denominator is the number of ACTIVE voters. The InActive voters are a drop/purge list and out of about 1 million of them, less than 1,000 voted last year (and about a 1,000 actives voters who did vote, subsequently became InActive

    The numbers from the state Dept for Dems (April 3rd snapshot):
    3,623,867 Active and 432,083 InActive

    So, 3,623,867 should be your denominator to yield 45.34% for the Dems NOT 40.45%

    Now, there is a refinement to this number I make in my VoterWeb system. Voters registered prior to 2008, who have missed the last 16 elections get moved to the InActive list.

    The refined number leaves us with 3,447,235 Active Dems and a turnout of 47.67 %

    Here is a clear example of why my method is superior:

    Delco has 28,000 InActive Dems (of which 60 voted last year)
    and 18,300 InActive Republicans (of which 60 voted last year)

    But, including the 28,000 in the denominator for the Dems and only the 18,000 for the Republicans, makes the Dem turnout look worse than it actually is. It’s skewing the results because the courthouse failed to cleanup dead records.

    Philly has nearly 100,000 InActive dems that don’t belong in its denominator.

    For the GOP, the superior active count is: 2,755,925 for the denominator 1.56/2.756 = 56.6%

    BTW, the REAL/CORRECT/SUPERIOR difference between the number of Dems and Reps should be 691,000 voters, NOT 900,000

    Also, the non-party registration should be 842,000 NOT “over a million”.


    It produces misleading, inaccurate and inconsistent results.

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