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Voting and Registration in the Election of November 1988

Report Number P20-440


Results from the November 1988 supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS) show that 57 percent of persons 18 years old and over reported that they had voted in the 1988 Presidential election.1 This is about 2 percentage points lower than in the Presidential elections of 1984 and 1980. Registration also declined, falling from 68 percent in 1984 to 67 percent in 1988. The figures show that despite an increase of 8.1 million in the age-eligible population, the number of voters did not increase significantly over the number reported voting in the 1984 election.

These findings are based on answers to a series of questions asked of persons of voting age in the Current Population Survey (CPS) conducted by the Bureau of the Census. The data in this report relate to the civilian noninstitutional population 18 years and over.

Voter turnout rates from household surveys are an important supplement to official counts because they provide estimates of turnout for population groups not identified in official sources. The Current Population Survey conducted by the Bureau of the Census is the largest of these surveys and provides the Nation's most reliable information on the social and economic characteristics of voters and nonvoters, as well as on the number and characteristics of persons registered to vote. Data from household surveys, however, have the limitation of generally overestimating voter turnout. For example, data from the November 1988 CPS indicate that 102.2 million persons reported voting in the 1988 elections, some 10.6 million more than actually voted, as recorded by the Clerk of the House, U.S.Congress. Comparable estimates of overstatement of registration are not available. Factors accounting for differences between official returns and the CPS results are discussed in the section, "Evaluation of the Accuracy of the Data."

Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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