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Money In Politics:

Past presidential election turnout in WNY

Published November 2, 2020

This week’s post isn’t about money, only politics. Specifically, voter turnout in Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties the past six presidential elections, dating back to the 1996 race between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. Our analysis also tracks how well the Democratic and Republican candidates did in each of the counties. Ken Kruly, Investigative Post researcher and publisher of Politics and Other Stuff, researched the numbers.


The numbers: turnout and votes

Year Candidates Turnout Dem % of vote GOP % of vote
ERIE COUNTY
2016 Clinton-Trump 66% 51.0% 44.5%
2012 Obama-Romney 65% 57.3% 41.0%
2008 Obama-McCain 67% 58.0% 40.5%
2004 Kerry-Bush 66% 56.4% 41.4%
2000 Gore-Bush 68% 56.6% 37.7%
1996 Clinton-Dole 71% 54.7% 32.3%
NIAGARA COUNTY
2016 Clinton-Trump 67% 38.8% 56.7%
2012 Obama-Romney 63% 49.5% 48.7%
2008 Obama-McCain 67% 49.7% 48.7%
2004 Kerry-Bush 58% 49.9% 49.4%
2000 Gore-Bush 63% 51.2% 43.9%
1996 Clinton-Dole 69% 49.4% 35.1%
CATTARAUGUS COUNTY
2016 Clinton-Trump 60% 30.8% 63.8%
2012 Obama-Romney 59% 42.5% 55.7%
2008 Obama-McCain 62% 43.9% 54.5%
2004 Kerry-Bush 63% 39.4% 58.5%
2000 Gore-Bush 63% 40.6% 54.5%
1996 Clinton-Dole 66% 41.2% 41.0%
CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY
2016 Clinton-Trump 63% 35.6% 58.9%
2012 Obama-Romney 61% 45.2% 53.1%
2008 Obama-McCain 64% 49.6% 48.6%
2004 Kerry-Bush 65% 44.7% 53.2%
2000 Gore-Bush 61% 46.0% 49.5%
1996 Clinton-Dole 65% 47.7% 37.8%
FOUR COUNTIES COMBINED
2016 Clinton-Trump 66% 46.7% 48.7%
2012 Obama-Romney 64% 42.7% 44.0%
2008 Obama-McCain 67% 55.2% 43.2%
2004 Kerry-Bush 64% 53.4% 44.7%
2000 Gore-Bush 66% 53.8% 40.7%
1996 Clinton-Dole 70% 52.5% 31.5%

 

Talking Points

  • Over the past six presidential elections, the turnout of registered voters in the four counties we tracked — Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua — has run almost 5 points higher than the state average of 61.5 percent. Erie County leads the way at 67.2 percent average turnout.
  • Democratic presidential candidates have carried Erie County in all six of the recent presidential elections. In Niagara County the Democrat won four of the last six; the Republican prevailed in 2008 and 2016. Cattaraugus narrowly broke for Bill Clinton over Dole in 1996, and Chautauqua chose Obama over McCain in 2008. Otherwise those two counties have been reliably Republican.
  • Across the four counties, 43.4 percent of registered voters are Democrats and 27.9 percent are Republicans. The remaining 28.7 percent belong to minor parties or are unaffiliated.
  • Since 1996, the percentage of unaffiliated or minor party party voters in the four counties has risen steadily. That year they comprised 19.9 percent of registered voters, vs. 28.7 percent in 2016. Democrats accounted for 47.3 percent registered voters in 1996 and  Republicans 32.8 percent, meaning Democratic registrations are up and Republican are down.
  • Minor-party and unaffiliated voters appeared to break for Republican presidential candidates in the last four cycles. The total number of votes for the GOP candidate approached the total number of registered Republicans in 2004, 2008 and 2012. Across the four counties in 2016, there were 291,550 votes for Trump — 40,118 more than the number of registered Republicans.
  • In those same four cycles, the vote for the Democratic candidate, as a percentage of registered Democrats across the four counties, averaged 70.8 percent, with a high turnout of 80 percent for Obama in 2008.
  • Early voting this year has been brisk locally, as it has been across the country. In Erie County, 167,938 ballots were cast in person over nine days of early voting. That’s 39.7% of the county’s 2016 turnout, which was the highest of the six presidential elections broken down here.

Podcast

Ken Kruly and Geoff Kelly discuss past presidential votes in Western New York and how Tuesday’s vote is shaping up.

Listen to Podcast