Politics

Early Voting Highest Among Older Voters, Those in West

by Frank Newport

More than a quarter of registered voters have already voted or plan to vote early

PRINCETON, NJ -- More than a quarter of registered voters say they have already voted or will vote before Election Day next Tuesday. Early voting is highest among those living in the West -- about 60% of whom have voted or plan to vote early -- and older voters. There are only small differences in early voting by party at this point.

Early Voting Intentions, Among Registered Voters, by Age, Region, and Party ID, October 2010

These results are based on a question included in Gallup's Oct. 21-24 interviewing, asking respondents if they had already voted, if they planned on voting before Election Day, or if they planned on voting on Election Day itself. Respondents could volunteer that they did not plan on voting at all.

It is difficult to put these findings into historical perspective because Gallup does not have a measure of early voting from previous midterm elections. Gallup finds self-reported early voting to be slightly lower in this midterm so far than it was in 2008, when 32% of registered voters just before that presidential election said they had voted or still planned to vote early. Prior to the 2004 presidential election, 21% said they had voted or planned on voting early.

Older Voters and Those in the West Most Likely to Vote Early

There is a decided age skew in early voting, with 18% of those 65 and older saying they have voted early, and another 18% saying they plan on voting early. By contrast, only 4% of 18- to 29-year-olds have already voted, with another 12% saying they plan on voting early.

The fact that 28% of registered voters under 30 -- compared with only 5% of seniors -- volunteer that they do not plan on voting is a telling indication of the reality that young people are disproportionately less involved in the election process than their elders.

The differences in early voting intentions between the Eastern and Western portions of the country are substantial, as they have been in previous presidential election years. Fifty-nine percent of those in the West say they will be early voters. That compares with 6% in the East and 10% in the Midwest, where voting patterns are much more traditionally focused on Election Day itself.

Few Political Clues

While interested observers have been poring over reports of early voting in an attempt to get a handle on the direction of the election, Gallup's current data do not show much of a difference in early voting by party affiliation. Thirteen percent of self-identified Republican registered voters say they have already voted, compared with 9% of independents and Democrats. The percentages of those in each party group who say they will vote between now and Election Day are roughly equal.

Implications

Gallup's findings about early voting so far certainly suggest the election is already over -- or will be within the next several days -- for a significant number of residents in the Western part of the country. In the East and Midwest, on the other hand, most voters will cast their ballots on Nov. 2, meaning that 11th-hour campaigning and debates may still be relevant in these regions, even as they have less impact in the West.

The finding that older voters have a higher propensity to vote early is not a new one, but confirms that many senior citizens, like residents in the West, are by this point in the election cycle essentially "out of the game" as far as the campaigning is concerned. A disproportionately high number of younger registered voters volunteer that they will not end up voting this year, also confirming what is well-known in American politics -- that young voters are as a rule not highly involved in the election process.

Explore more Gallup data relating to the upcoming congressional midterm elections, including Gallup's complete generic ballot trend since 1950, in our Election 2010 Key Indicators interactive.

Learn more about Gallup's likely voter models for the 2010 midterm congressional elections.

Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 21-24, 2010, with a random sample of 1,364 registered voters, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.

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