A report by Curtis Gans and the American University Center for the Study of the American Electorate (CSAE) says that despite predictions of huge voter turnout at at the polls this year, the numbers for this election won't break any records — and in fact were akin to 2004 levels. Gans blames "a downturn in the number and percentage of Republican voters going to the polls" for the lower-than-expected turnout.
Big money spent on ads, leaflets, canvassing and registering 10 million new voters, along with the sour economic climate, opposition to the war in Iraq and displeasure with the current administration drove up expectations for high voter turnout. Gans says he and many others "were fooled" by those indicators to think that voting levels would make turnout in recent elections seem nothing short of apathetic. Long lines at the polls and large numbers of early voters did little to sway that expectation.
CSAE estimates that between 126.5 million and 128.5 million Americans voted in this year's election. That projection places turnout at or slightly higher than 2004 levels, which CSAE reported as 60.7% of eligible voters. Using the CSAE model, anything over 61.0% would exceed turnout in 1964.
George Mason University Prof. Michael McDonald disagrees with CSAE's numbers. His estimate is 133.3 million ballots cast. And he says even that number is conservative and doesn't include many absentee and provisional ballots. Using McDonald's model this election's turnout rate "would be the largest since the 62.8% of 1964. If we top that number, which we might, the next highest turnout rate would be 63.8% in 1960."