We finally have Colorado election numbers that begin to tell the story of 2012. Some national background. It appears fewer rural Americans voted. DailyYonder.Com reported this decline:
(Thanks to Bill Bishop of Daily Yonder for permission.)
Sean Trende, focusing on rural Ohio, perceived rural voters were “unhappy with Obama” but speculated that the Bain ad barrage “may have turned them off…” on Romney as well. Several analysts hope that boosting rural turnout might make Republicans competitive again.
No Big Turnout Drop in Colorado
Colorado’s rural turnout dropped just a tiny bit. Rural adults were a bit less likely to cast presidential votes: down 0.21% from 2008. (Exurban voting went down 0.47%, while urban voting increased 0.19%.)
Ski counties and adjacent bedroom counties had lower percentage turnouts of adults: Archuleta, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Gunnison, La Plata, Lake, Pitkin, Routt and San Miguel. Several of these were counties I had identified as having unusually high numbers of inactive voters, so keeping inactives on the voter lists must not improve turnout. Causes for these declines deserve investigation. Add to these some Eastern Plains counties: Bent, Crowley, Kiowa, Otero, Sedgwick and Yuma. Given rural voters’ lean – see the graph – toward Republicans, boosting turnout in these counties might help a bit.
(Credit: Daily Yonder)
(Special thanks to Deying Zhou of the State Demographer’s office for population data help.)
Colorado’s Urban Trends
In urban Colorado (Front Range plus Mesa County), adults’ voting level dropped in Arapahoe, Boulder, El Paso and Mesa counties. The only real gainer was Denver County, up 1.9%. Curiously, the Obama youth vote didn’t produce higher turnout in college counties like Boulder, Mesa, Gunnison or La Plata.
Evaluating what happened in our large counties requires looking below overall county numbers. I looked at State House district turnouts in Denver, Adams, Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, not adjusted for population change (unlike county-level results above).
Turnout growth in these counties’ districts was 50.2% correlated to a lower share of Anglos in these districts. More specifically, for every 10% decline in the Anglo population share, turnout grew an extra 5%. Turnout growth was concentrated in Denver, with 4 districts. Adams had 3 and Arapahoe 2. None in Jeffco, but the courts approved substantial dispersion of minority vote strength in Jeffco. While observers have pointed to real growth in Hispanic voting, the three districts with more than 20% African-Americans all showed strong turnout growth from 2008. But Colorado eked out its small growth in voting because minorities’ shares of all voters increased.
What does this mean? Is it stronger minority voting behavior only? Or lower enthusiasm about voting among Anglos? To answer these questions, we will need more data.
No single turnout target suggests it might shift Colorado out of the Democratic column. We can, however, take some (slight) comfort from the fact that Obama is a unique candidate whose appeal to minorities will be tough to duplicate for any future Anglo Democratic candidate.