Despite all the talk about voter intensity surrounding the presidential election, 13 million fewer people voted in 2012 than in 2008.
131 million voters cast their ballots in the 2008 election in which Barack Obama defeated Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) by a 53% to 46% margin. Obama received 69.4 million votes, while McCain received 59.9 million.
In 2012, Obama defeated Romney by a 50% to 48% margin. Obama received 59.8 million votes, and Romney received 57.1 million votes — 2.7 million fewer than Obama in 2012, but also 2.8 million fewer than McCain in 2008.
Surprisingly, President Obama’s 2012 vote total — 59.8 million — was 100,000 less than the 59.9 million John McCain received in 2008.
Even though President Obama received 10 million fewer votes in 2012 than he did in 2008, the Democrats were able to win where it mattered. Once again, they mounted a better ground game to turn out the vote on election day than Republicans managed to, especially in a dozen key swing states. A look at the final 2012 electoral college map shows that very little changed between 2008 and 2012. Only two states “switched” from one candidate to another: traditionally Republican Indiana, which Obama won in 2008, went for Romney in 2012, and North Carolina, a surprise win for Obama in 2008, also went to Romney in 2012.
All the other key swing states — Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado, Nevada — went to Obama by narrow margins in 2012.
The final electoral college results (with Florida going to Obama with 100% of the precincts reporting by a 40,000 vote margin) give President Obama 332 electoral college votes to Mitt Romney’s 206.
The superiority of the Democratic ground game was confirmed by today’s USA Today exit poll analysis that showed Obama had an advantage over Romney with late deciders; among those who decided in the last few days of the campaign, Obama won 50% to 44%. For those who decided on Election Day who they would vote for, Obama won 52% to 43%.
As one voter told ABC News Tuesday night, the enthusiasm advantage Republicans were said to have over Democrats just wasn’t there in 2012: “Everyone was talking about how the Democrats are unenthusiastic and the Republicans are fired up… It sounds like that was all talk.”