Democracy in numbers
Uninterested or unmotivated, at least 21 million American voters don't head for the polling stations.
- Tuesday, 20 October 2015
Although Barack Obama’s accession to the White House was hailed by many as a triumph of grassroots democracy, a defeat of the two main parties’ formidable electoral machines and a breaking of a palingenesis in US politics, it was only partially all these things.
Let’s start with the numbers: In 2008, Obama beat John McCain 53% to 46%; and in 2012, he defeated Mitt Romney 51% to 47%. Neither victory was a triumphant garnering of the popular vote, but they were clear-cut wins in terms of electoral votes, thanks to the country’s unique Electoral College system.
And yet the arrival of a young, dynamic, African-American candidate, not fully immersed in – or entirely alien to – the circles, rites and interest networks in Washington, did not lead the average American to become much more involved in politics. In 2008, voter turnout was 61.6%, slightly higher than in 2004, but it dropped to 58.2% in 2012.