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Post-Election Analysis: Missouri Getting Redder, St. Louis Turnout Declines

November 9, 2020 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy No Comments

One of the big stories from the 2020 election was the huge turnout nationwide.

While more people have voted than at any other time in American history, percentage-wise, this number does not quite break records. Given that around 239.2 million Americans were eligible to vote in 2020, the projected number of voters brings us to a 66.8% turnout rate. This makes 2020 the year with the highest voter turnout since 1900, when Republican William McKinley won reelection with 73.7% turnout.

The highest voter turnout in history was in 1876, when 82.6% of eligible voters cast ballots in the race between Republican Rutherford Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden. Hayes eventually won the presidency in a close, contested election. (Town & Country Magazine)

Missouri voters exceeded the national average this election, by a few points.

More than 70% of all registered Missouri voters turned out to vote this election, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft tweeted last night. That’s the highest turnout level in more than 20 years. The 1992 presidential election between Bill Clinton and George George H.W. Bush brought out 78% of registered voters. (St. Louis Public Radio)

The St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners is on the first floor at 300 N. Tucker (@ Olive)

I was curious how we did in the City of St. Louis. Turnout was less than four years ago, and 2016 was less than in 2012. I decided to delve into the data to seek an explanation for the decline in turnout.

Here are my findings:

  • Turnout in 2016 was 69.43%, but 65.05% in 2020.
  • Four wards (10, 13, 23, 24) had slight increases in the percentage of registered voters who voted, the other 24 wards all had declines.
  • Over 12,000 new registered voters compared to 2016, a 6.3% increase! Comparing 2020 to 2012 the increase in registered voters was 4.61%.
  • Despite the increase in registered voters, six contiguous north city wards (1,2,3,4,21,22,27) had decreases in registered voters. These same six also had decreases in 2016. When the 2020 census numbers are released next year we’re going to see population loses in the north side, but increases in the central corridor — the same pattern happened a decade ago. The overall increase in registered voters tells me the overall population loss slowed again or we might even see a very slight increase in population. A loss is more likely. More on this in a future post.
  • In all three (2012, 2016, 2020) some voters in every ward didn’t vote in the presidential race which is first on the ballot. In 2016 a few wards this approached 1% of voters, but in 2020 non exceeded half of one percent. It’s good that voters aren’t skipping down ballot races, though that likely exists too in fewer numbers.

Ok, on to Missouri.

I’ve voted in nine presidential elections, eight of those in Missouri. Democrat Bill Clinton won Missouri in 1992 by 10.15 points. Clinton won Missouri again in 1996, but only by 6.3 points. This was the last time Missouri went blue. Four of the next six elections have been redder than the last. The exceptions are 2008 & this year.

Here is the point spread, all favoring the GOP nominee.

  • 2000: 3.34 points
  • 2004: 7.2 points
  • 2008: 0.13 points (Obama nearly flipped Missouri blue)
  • 2012: 9.38 points
  • 2016: 18.51 points
  • 2020: 15.57 points

Biden this year lost Missouri by a smaller margin than Clinton, but still worse than Obama in 2012. As I said in December 2019: Missouri Is A Solid Red State. A poll in June had some thinking a blue wave would sweep across Missouri.

In total, the poll found that Biden claimed 48 percent of the likely voters in Missouri and Trump claimed 46 percent. “This result is consistent with national polls showing a double-digit Biden lead and state polls showing Biden ahead in other states Donald Trump won in 2016,” pollsters said in a release.

Biden’s campaign did not respond to Newsweek’s request for comment before publication.

“The political environment in Missouri has shifted slightly away from Republicans,” the pollsters concluded. Missouri is not the only battleground state in which recent polls indicate this is true. Earlier this month, election forecasters estimated Biden had an 86 percent advantage over Trump nationally, with his edge in some important swing stages ranging between 2 and 8 percent. Even so, the president has said that he holds a lead in all of the states likely to be critical in the general election’s outcome. (Newsweek)

I was highly skeptical when I saw this poll in late June because Missouri hasn’t been a battleground/swing state for years. It may be in play in the future, but it won’t happen in my lifetime.

— Steve Patterson

 

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