In the historic election of 2008 many people had great hopes yet others had a more realistic point of view. We were told daily how this election was to have one of the greatest turn out efforts in history. During the United States presidential election of 2004 there were 121,069,054 votes cast for George W. Bush and John Kerry. During the United States presidential election of 2000 there were 101,455,899 votes cast for the major political parties. The presidential election of 2000 had registered voters in the amount of 194,285,000 and the 2004 was 201,541,000. The presidential election of 2008 had 231,229,580 potential voters. In 2000 the voter turnout rate was 50.0% and the 2004 presidential election had a turn out rate of 58.2%. The turnout during the 2008 election was 124,470,000 and the turnout rate was about 53%. The weather across the United States was good and voting problems were very low. Voter turnout 1996 was 51.7%.
The independent Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism found that Obama's coverage in the media was more positive at 30 percent than negative at 44 percent, while McCain's coverage was 57 percent negative and 14 percent positive. As discussed in an earlier post our hearing the same thing over and over again tends to impact our judgment and emotions.
A study conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation concluded that “likeability” – a dimension of emotion – is the attitude measure which is the most predictive element of whether an advertisement will increase sales. Emotions have almost three times more influence on purchase intent than does the content of an advertisement. An election is really just a sale on a particular canidate. According to the CNN poll, viewers found the Illinois Democrat more likeable by a margin of 65 to 28 percent--a far larger spread than either Reagan, Bush, Clinton or W. ever enjoyed in similar surveys.
The economy was the overriding election emotion which may have led to anxiety, particularly among older voters. Economic anxiety of middle-aged and the middle-class men were communicated through a relentless drumbeat of how bad the economy is. This didn't seem to impact voter turnout either. Even though Mr. Obama had more positive media coverage than Mr. McCain the voter turnout wasn’t impacted. Like it or not, the presidential election is about 'likability.' Even though Obama won the election the emotion of likeability didn’t impact on the voter turnout. Anxiety on issues such as the economy, unemployment, energy, crime and terrorism didn’t impact voter turnout either.
Maybe the most likely factor as to why voter turnout declined is that we really weren’t excited about either candidate.