Published on November 5, 2019

According to the US Census Bureau, 53% of those eligible to vote turned out to vote in the 2018 election, though 67% of that population was registered.

How many Americans register and turn out to vote?

Presidential voting rate

Midterm voting rate

The 2018 midterm election had an unusually high voter turnout rate for a midterm election, which typically have voter turnout rates that are about 10–20 percentage points below presidential election voting rates. For example, the 2014 mid-term voting rate was 42%, 19 percentage points below the 2016 turnout of 61%. In contrast, the 2018 voting rate was 53%, only 8 percentage points below the presidential vote.

This made it the highest voter turnout rate for a midterm election in 40 years, with the second-highest election being 1982, when 52% of citizens turned out to vote.

In general, people who are white and non-Hispanic vote at the highest rate of any US citizens.

Presidential citizen voting rates by race and ethnicity

Midterm citizen voting rates by race and ethnicity

In 2016, 65% of white non-Hispanic voters turned out to vote, whereas black voters had turnout rates of 59%, Asian voters had turnout rates of 49%, and Hispanic voters of any race had turnout rates of 48%. The 2012 election marked the highest turnout rate in the past 40 years for Black voters, at 66%, whereas 1992 marked the peak for both white and Hispanic voters of any race, at 69% and 52%, respectively.

How do voting and registration vary across the states?

Voting and registration rates vary widely by state. In the 2016 election, the District of Columbia, Maine, and Mississippi had the highest citizen voting rates at 82%, 80%, and 80%, respectively. California, West Virginia, and Hawaii had the lowest citizen voting rates, at 65%, 64%, and 54%, respectively.

While registration rate and voting rate are typically closely correlated, the gap between the number of citizens registering to vote and actually voting is larger in some states than others. For example, in West Virginia, 64% of the population is registered to vote, but only 51% voted in 2016. On the other hand, 76% of citizens in Wisconsin were registered to vote that same year, and 71% of citizens turned out to vote.

Different states also have varying rates of voting by race and ethnicity.

Note: The chart above does not depict all races in all states. This is because the Census cannot accurately estimate the voting rates if a race’s population in a given state is less than 75,000. Also, this Census data set did not report data on people who consider themselves Native American. While the Census data does report voting rates for most demographic populations in states, the margin of error on some of these estimates may be high due to the small sample size.

Many states follow the trend in the chart above: white non-Hispanic voters turnout at slightly higher rates than the state’s overall citizen population, whereas voters of other demographics turnout at lower rates. However, the gap between the overall voting rate and the voting rate of certain demographics is smaller in some states than the national average.

For example, in Wisconsin, 71% of the overall citizen population turned out to vote, but only 45% of the Black population turned out to vote in 2016. In Washington, Kansas, and Connecticut, Black voters also turned out to vote at significantly lower rates than the overall citizen population. In other states, like Kentucky and Colorado, Black populations turn out to vote at higher rates than the overall citizen population. The gap between the overall voting rate and voting rate by demographic is even more noticeable for Hispanic and Asian voters in several states, such as in Minnesota, where the overall turnout rate was 69%, but the Hispanic turnout rate was 37%.

Voting rates also vary significantly by age, with young voters typically voting at lower rates than older voters.

For example, in Michigan, 64% of the citizen population turned out to vote in 2016, but only 38% of citizens aged 18-24 did. In some states, such as Kentucky, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, there is a less pronounced gap between youth voting and overall voting rates.