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Voters cast their ballots at city Library in Atlanta top top Nov. 3, 2020. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)

Americans vote in document numbers in last year’s presidential election, casting practically 158.4 million ballots. That functions out to much more than six-in-ten world of voting age and virtually two-thirds of estimated eligible voters, follow to a preliminary Pew Research center analysis.

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Nationwide, presidential choice turnout was about 7 portion points greater than in 2016, nevertheless of i m sorry of three various turnout metrics we looked at: the estimated voting-age population as of July 1, that estimate adjusted to Nov. 1, and also the approximated voting-eligible population, i m sorry subtracts noncitizens and ineligible felons and also adds abroad eligible citizens. Based on these measures, turnout to be the highest due to the fact that at least 1980, the faster year in our analysis, and possibly lot longer.

The rise in turnout was fueled in part by the bitter fight in between incumbent chairman Donald Trump and also challenger Joe Biden: A preelection survey discovered a record share of registered voters (83%) saying it “really matter” who won. However another big factor was the dramatic steps many states took to increase mail balloting and early voting due to the fact that of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Turnout rates boosted in every state compared with 2016, yet of the 10 states where it increased the most, seven conducted November’s vote entirely or largely by mail, our evaluation shows. Six of those states had recently embraced all-mail voting, one of two people permanently (Utah and Hawaii) or for the 2020 elections just (California, brand-new Jersey, Vermont and most that Montana).


The past two months have actually been amongst the many turbulent post-election durations in American history, v unfounded yet constantly repeated insurance claims of poll fraud finishing in the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol through a lot of trumped supporters. Given the continuing divides end the 2020 presidential election, we wanted to placed the actual, confirmed turnout into some more comprehensive context. (The Census Bureau commonly releases a thorough report on registration and voting after ~ every national election, but that’s not likely to come the end for several months yet.)

Measuring U.S. Voter turnout is just one of those points that seems intuitively straightforward but in practice is anything but. U.S. Elections are run no by a single national agency, together in countless other progressed democracies, but by separation, personal, instance states and also counties in ~ states. Over there is no central registry of default voters, no uniform rules for maintaining registrations current, and no requirement to report poll totals in a continual way.

All the which way that calculating turnout prices inevitably involves judgment calls – both in picking which votes to include (the numerator) and the population against which to to compare them (the denominator).

For this post, we initially wanted to basic our analysis on total ballots counted, a metric that consists of all ballots nevertheless of workplaces voted for. (It’s frequently slightly greater than the presidential vote, because there are constantly some voters who skip the contest but vote in down-ballot races.) but not all states have actually reported total-ballots data, so us turned our attention to the presidential race, which practically always is the one the attracts the many votes.

We compiled the official votes cast and also counted for all presidential candidates (including write-in votes, when available) in 2016 and also 2020, as certified and reported by every state’s chief election office. Because that the 2000, 2004, 2008 and also 2012 elections, for which we only needed accumulation nationwide vote totals, we relied on Dave Leip’s Atlas that U.S. Presidential Elections, supplemented when crucial by data indigenous the salesperson of the U.S. House of Representatives.

For comparative purposes, us calculated the presidential-vote totals together percentages of 3 separate procedures of the potential voter pool: the 18-and-over population as that July 1, as approximated by the Census Bureau; those numbers interpolated to Nov. 1 by Michael McDonald, a political scientist and turnout expert at the college of Florida; and also McDonald’s estimate of the voting-eligible population, i beg your pardon subtracts noncitizens and ineligible felons and adds overseas eligible citizens.

Estimated turnout prices for various other countries, i m sorry we’ve previously written about, were obtained from the worldwide Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, which works to promote and support democracy approximately the world.


In Hawaii, turnout increased from 42.3% of the approximated voting-eligible populace in 2016 come 57% last year, the greatest turnout boost in the country by this measurement. In Utah, turnout increased by about 11 percent points, from 56.8% of estimated eligible voter in 2016 to almost 68% in 2020.


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The the smallest turnout increases, together shares of approximated eligible voters, were in phibìc Dakota (3.3 percentage points), Arkansas (3 points) and Oklahoma (2.5 points). Interestingly, the ar of Columbia’s adoption of all-mail voting for the 2020 choice didn’t it seems ~ to influence turnout much: 63.7% of estimated eligible D.C. Voters voted because that president, 3.3 portion points over the 2016 turnout level.

Minnesota had the highest possible turnout of any state last year, v 79.4% of estimated eligible voters spreading ballots because that president. Colorado, Maine and Wisconsin all adhered to close behind, at around 75.5%; Washington state, at 75.2%, rounded out the top five. The lowest-turnout claims were Tennessee (59.6% of estimated eligible voters), Hawaii and West Virginia (57% each), Arkansas (55.9%) and also Oklahoma (54.8%).

The Census Bureau will certainly release that own estimates of turnout later on this year, utilizing a somewhat different methodology (people that say lock voted as a share of estimated voting-age population). But based upon the sample of vault years, it’s likely the Census will show the highest turnout since the 1960s.

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Despite the large bump in turnout last year, the U.S. Quiet lags behind most of its developed-nation peers as soon as it pertains to electoral participation. The end of 35 members of the organization for Economic cooperation and advance for which estimates of voting-age populace in the most recent national election were available, U.S. Turnout ranked one underwhelming 24th.