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Center for Democracy & Election Management


  • Center for the Study of the American Electorate

    Curtis Gans
    Director, CSAE

Mailing Address

Center for the Study of the American Electorate

Ballot Box

The Center for the Study of the American Electorate (CSAE) is the principal source for data and analysis of civic engagement in politics in the United States. Built upon the 30 years of work of the independent, non-partisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, this newest addition to the American University's Center for Democracy and Election Management, will continue to provide data and analysis of voter participation and other related issues, hold a major biennial conference on the state of American democracy, conduct forums on various issues relating to civic engagement, create high-level bi-partisan working groups to address fundamental problems underlying the increasing voter apathy and provide research to guide the deliberations of those groups.

The Center is directed by Curtis Gans, a co-founder and director of CSAE and a recognized expert on civic participation issues.

Election Studies

Every biennium, the Committee produced from five to six reports on registration and turnout. Those reports included, in Presidential years:

  1. a preliminary report on Presidential primary turnout;
  2. a final report on primary turnout coupled with a preliminary report on non-Presidential primary turnout (for U.S. Senate and state governor);
  3. a final report on non-Presidential primaries;
  4. a preliminary report on registration;
  5. an immediate post-election report on Presidential general election turnout, including turnout for governor, U.S. Senate and statewide aggregate vote for Congress (plus, on occasion, selected ballot propositions) base don unofficial returns;
  6. and a final report with final official figures on turnout and registration.

In mid-term elections, a similar pattern of these reports was repeated without the reports on Presidential primaries. Each report was accompanied by summary charts, graphs and a panoply of statistical tables on each aspect of the report. Each report was accompanied by commentary and analysis and some final reports looked at certain questions of interest relating to citizen participation. Because of the size of the tables at the end of each of these reports, only two sets of tables will be presented here: the tables from final reports of the elections of 2004 and 2002, which serve as an historical record for Presidential and mid-term elections stretching back to 1960. (The Center is in the midst of creating a database that will provide similar data back to 1860.) What is included is the cover report and analysis in each report, plus the notes and summary charts which are appended to each report.

It should be noted that until 2002, the Committee used as a denominator the Census Bureau's estimates of voting age population (18 years of age or over prior to 1972 and 21 years and over prior to that). But those figures included non-citizens who could not vote; convicted felons, many of whom could not vote; and people deemed incompetent in mental institutions who could not vote; and did not include American citizens living in other countries who could vote; the people included in studies of the undercount who were citizens and of age who could vote and potential voters who became citizens through naturalization during the election year who also could vote. The only person, during these years, who used a better denominator, one that excluded non-citizens was Dr. Walter Dean Burnham. The Committee and Center, for reasons outline in the notes in the 2004 preliminary and general election reports is using Burnham's figures and methodology for primaries—citizen age-eligible population which is based on a Census to Census (or April to April) interpolation of eligible voters, excluding non-citizens; and a new set of denominators using the same methodology but from November to November to analyze general election turnout.

It should be noted that in 2002, the Committee did not produce a final report so the appropriate statistical charts are appended to the Committee's preliminary report.

For 30 years, prior to coming to American University, what is now the Center for the Study of the American Electorate was an independent non-profit called the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate. During that 30-year period, the Committee produced several reports, statistical summaries and analysis on voter registration and turnout in primary and general elections for every election for which there was an available denominator of eligible voters. In addition, the Committee produced discrete studies on issues surrounding voter participation, commissioned studies and surveys, testified before Congress, published articles and convened meetings. What follows below is much of the work of the Committee divided by category beginning with the election reports which have given the previous Committee and present Center credibility. These will be augmented by work done by the Center at AU during the past year and in the present and future.

GOP Nationwide Primary Vote Exceeds Democrats For First Time Since 1930 (Summary Charts)
September 7, 2010

Testimony Before The Senate Rules Committee: "Voter Registration: Assessing Current Problems"
March 11, 2009

2008 Turnout Report: African-Americans, Anger, Fear and Youth Propel Turnout to Highest Level Since 1960
December 17, 2008

Much-hyped Turnout Record Fails to Materialize; Convenience Voting Fails to Boost Balloting
November 6, 2008

Moderate Registration Increase Propels New Record; Democrats and Unaffiliated Gain; Republicans Lose
November 2, 2008

Election Problems Could Be Solved With Biometric ID
October 23, 2008

The Primary Turnout Story: Presidential Races Miss Record High Senate and Governor Contests Hit Record Low
October 1, 2008

2008 Primary Turnout Falls Just Short of Record Nationally, Breaks Records in Most States
May 19, 2008

Voter IDs Are Not the Problem: A Survey of Three States
January 9, 2008

Bush, Iraq Propel Modest Turnout Increase Ending 12-Year Republican Revolution: Dems Higher Than Gop For First Time Since 1990
November 9, 2006

Registration Percentage Unchanged From 2002 - Record Percentage Eschew Major Parties
November 2, 2006

2006 Primary Turnout a Record Low: 15 Percent of Eligibles Vote
October 6, 2006

Turnout Exceeds Optimistic Predictions: More Than 122 Million Vote
January 14, 2005

President Bush, Mobilization Drives Propel Turnout To Post-1968 High: Kerry, Democratic Weakness Shown
November 4, 2004

Registration Rises Moderately: Battleground States Lead The Way
October 28, 2004

States of Electorate and Election Diverge: Record Low Primary Turnout, High November Turnout Likely
September 29, 2004

2004 Primary Turnout Low: Grouped Primaries Lower Than Individuals
March 9, 2004

Registration Trending Lower: Democrats Lose, Independents Gain
October 31, 2002

Primary Turnout Narrowly Misses Record Lows: Interest In Late Primaries Higher Than Early
September 26, 2002

Early 9/11 Political Returns In: Primary Turnout Trending Towards Record Low
July 2, 2002

Mobilization Propels Modest Turnout Increase: GOP Outorganizes Democrats
August 30, 2001

Battleground State Mobilization Efforts Propel Voter Turnout Slightly Upward in Historic But Disturbing Election
November 10, 2000

Voter Registration Flat: Primary Turnout Low, Low Turnout Held Likely
November 2, 2000

Frontloading, Progressive Disengagement Creates Second Lowest Primary Turnout
August 31, 2000

McCain, Schedule, Open Primaries Propel GOP Turnout Sharply Higher: Democratic Turnout Low
March 9, 2000

1998 Turnout Resumes Downward Trend: Rate Lowest Since 1942
February 1, 1999

Turnout Dips To 56-Year Low: Non-South Turnout Lowest Since 1818
November 5, 1998

Registration Increases By Four Million: Independents Gain Most, Democrats Least
October 30, 1998


October 15, 2010: Voter Turnout In The United States 1788-2009

April 10, 2006: Biennal AU Conference on the State of American Democracy. Audio:

October 31, 2005: Forum: New Nominating System. Panelists:

  • Don Fowler, Former Chair, DNC
  • David Norcross, Chair, RNC Committee on Rules
  • Curtis Gans, Director, Center for the Study of the American Electorate
  • Rep. David Price, Co-Chair, DNC Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling and Member of Congress
  • Thomas Sansonetti, Former Chair, RNC Committee on Rules
  • James A. Thurber, Distinguished Professor of Government, American University and Director, Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies