How big will voter turnout be for the Presidential election?

In 2016, it was136,753,00. That’s 54.4% of the “voter age population” (citizens over the age of 18).

VEP = Voter Eligible Population = 230,000,000 in 2016

VAP = Voter Age Population = 250,000,000 in 2016.

VEP is the number of people (estimated) able to vote (but not necessarily registered). VAP is the number of people the right age to vote.

2016 VAP / Votes cast for President = 54.4%.

2012 VAP / Votes cast = 54.9% (VAP = 235,000,000)

2008 VAP / Votes = 57.1% (VAP = 230,00,000)

Since 1960 the percentage has ranged from 62.8% (1960) to 49% (1996) but past decade has been in the 50s.

Estimate for the VAP for 2020 is 255,200,363. That might translate into a VAP around 234,000,000. Actual population in the US has gone from 323mm to 328mm since 2016.


Some notes (source: American Communities Project):

“In November 2016, voter turnout nationally was 55%. In November 2018, turnout was 50%, according to the United States Election Project. That’s high for a midterm.

In 2014 VAP / turnout was 36% which was the lowest turnout for a midterm in 70 years.

And here’s one early sign of such engagement for November 2020, according to Gallup data: 64% of American adults said they are more enthusiastic about voting than usual, according to the poll taken in October 2019, 13 months before the election. Typically just over half of Americans are enthused six months or more before a presidential election.

Breakdowns point to elevated enthusiasm across demographic slices, including age — now front and center in this campaign, from vetting the presidential candidates to analyzing the issues dividing boomers from millennials and gen z potential voters.

  • 61% of people ages 18 to 34 said they were more enthusiastic than usual about voting (34% said they were less enthusiastic);
  • 62% of those ages 35 to 54 said they were more enthusiastic (28% said they were less enthusiastic);
  • 66% of those ages 55 and over said they were more enthusiastic (25% said they were less enthusiastic).”


And with more mail-in voting, turnout could be larger than traditional.

The questions I’m wondering:

- Will Democrats be as enthusiastic for Biden as they were for Clinton in 2016?

With a strong AOC/Sanders contingent plus this election being more about “never Trump” than Biden, I’m thinking “no”.

BUT…I’m torn because more people talking about this election than the 2016 election.

- Will trends in Black and Hispanic voters (they were down in 2016 from 2012 but my guess is they will be up in 2020 from 2016) be significant?

- the 2018 turnout so high leads me to believe this election will be high.

If 255,000,000 being the estimate for VAP, then 60% of that is 153,000,000.

The PredictIt categories and odds are (note: a “contract” on Predict trades between 0 cents and 100 cents. A loss pays off 0 cents and a win pays off 100 cents. And a viable strategy is also to bet that the perception of turnout will move in a certain direction and you can take the bet off with a profit or loss before the election. One can also short a contract).

The categories and odds are in the attached image.

I bet on two categories:

- 154–157 million. I bought it at 11 cents. Currently at 11 cents.

- 157–160 million. I bought it at 9 cents. Currently at 9 cents.

My thinking is that we go higher than 60% because of the mail-in voting and the polarization. There is more “vote-shaming” going on than I have ever seen before (I am vote-shamed every election because I never vote).

Also, Google Trends has the word “vote” trending higher now than at the equivalent time in 2016. And there might be more turnout this year from minorities and new Gen Z voters.

— -

I bet $100 on each contract. So my exposure is $200 loss if the turnout lower than 154 million or higher than 160mm. I profit with $700 ($900 payout — $200 exposure) if turnout is 154–157 million. I profit with $900 ($1100 payout — $200 exposure) if turnout is 157–160 million.

From PredictIt:

“To resolve this market, PredictIt shall rely upon the first published official 2020 Presidential General Election Results issued by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) following such election.”

Also, if the turnout is 157,000,000 (as an example), on the cusp, then it resolves to the higher turnout category.

The contract trending the steepest in the higher direction over the past seven days is 160mm+.

Seems like a big reach to go over 160,000,000 given that the population has gone up just 5,000,000 and the voters last election were 136,000,000 (note: many sites say 138,000,000 but that includes voters that voted in 2016 but not in the Presidential election).

Would love to see how people work through their own assumptions here to place a bet (taking into account the odds of each bet).

Also, this is a fun political bet that has nothing to do with political opinions.

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