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Over 60% of eligible Americans voted in the 2020 presidential election, according to survey data from the Census Bureau. Turnout reached its highest level in three decades. Use of nontraditional voting methods, such as vote-by-mail and early voting, more than doubled as states adopted new policies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Youth voter turnout increased the most of any age group, rising by 10 percentage points compared with the previous presidential election. It’s the second federal election with an increase in youth voter turnout. In the 2018 midterms, youth voter turnout almost doubled from 2014. Yet young voters still turn out the least of all age groups. Seniors turn out at the highest rate, with about 72% voting in 2020, an increase of four percentage points from 2016.
Voting rates increased in the Northeast, Midwest, and West in 2020 but stayed constant in the South, where turnout was the lowest.
Turnout in 2020 was higher in states where the presidential election was close, such as in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Minnesota led all states with about 74% of eligible voters casting a ballot. The state also had the highest turnout rate in 2016.
Voters in Texas and West Virginia turned out the least in 2020, both at a rate of about 55%.
Prior to 2020, 60% of voters cast their ballots in person on Election Day. In response to COVID-19, many states expanded mail-in voting and increased the early voting period to prevent crowding at the polls. With those changes, almost 70% of voters used nontraditional methods to cast their ballots in 2020.
Senior voters vote by mail the most of any age group. This was true in pre-pandemic years but still increased by almost 25 percentage points in 2020. Across race and ethnicity groups, Asian American voters were the most likely to vote by mail, at 64%.
The Northeast expanded mail-in voting in 2020, increasing from 6% voting by mail in 2016 to 43% in 2020. Early voting, which also increased in 2020, is the most popular in Southern states, especially among Black and Hispanic voters. All but two Southern states, Alabama and Mississippi, allow in-person early voting periods.
The most common reason for not voting in the 2020 election was lack of interest, according to the Census Bureau survey. Younger voters cited being too busy to vote or forgetting to vote at the highest rates of any age group. Illness or disability was the most common reason for not voting for seniors. Senior voters cited transportation problems and the fear of COVID-19 at higher rates than other age groups. Voters in the 25-to-64 age group were more likely to report a dislike of the candidates or campaign issues as a reason for not voting.
This data comes from the Current Population Survey's Voting and Registration supplement. Using this data, the Census Bureau estimates voting rates by demographic groups. The Census Bureau numbers may differ from official voter counts if ballots are invalidated, respondents did not vote for every office, or due to survey misreporting. The estimates do not include American Indian and Alaskan Natives because the sample is not large enough to accurately measure this population.
For more information on elections, check out USAFacts Democracy & Society metrics or this USAFacts analysis on how states changed their voting laws after the 2020 election.
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