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Who Mobilized the Most in 2004?

By Alan Abramowitz

According to the 2004 American National Election Study (NES), both major parties contacted record numbers of voters prior to the 2004 election. However, according to the NES data, the percentage of voters contacted by the Democratic Party increased much more dramatically than the percentage contacted by the Republican Party. 31 percent of respondents in the post-election phase of the survey reported being contacted by the Democratic Party, shattering the previous record of 22 percent set in 2000. 28 percent of respondents reported being contacted by the Republican Party, also breaking the record of 25 percent set in 2000. In addition, 18 percent of voters reported being contacted before the election by a non-party group or organization.

And these mobilization efforts appear to have had an effect, especially among less educated and lower income voters. The difference in reported turnout between those who were contacted and those who were not contacted was 32 points among the high school educated, 21 points among those with some college education, and only 8 points among college graduates. Similarly, there was a difference in turnout of 32 points among respondents with family incomes below $25,000, 30 points among those with family incomes between $25,000 and $49,999, 14 points among those with family incomes between $50,000 and $89,999, and only 5 points among those with family incomes of $90,000 or more. Among voters who were contacted, the gap in turnout between the lowest and highest income groups was only 8 percentage points. Among those who were not contacted, the gap in turnout between the lowest and highest income groups was 26 percentage points.

These data show that despite the outcome of the election, Democrats outmobilized Republicans in 2004. In addition, the 2004 results indicate that Democratic mobilization efforts matter more than Republican mobilization efforts because mobilization has a greater impact on lower SES voters than on higher SES voters. We need to make sure that these efforts continue in 2006 and 2008.