Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Previously Published Works bannerUC San Diego

Not by turnout alone: Measuring the sources of electoral change, 2012 to 2016.


Changes in partisan outcomes between consecutive elections must come from changes in the composition of the electorate or changes in the vote choices of consistent voters. How much composition versus conversion drives electoral change has critical implications for the policy mandates of election victories and campaigning and governing strategies. Here, we analyze electoral change between the 2012 and 2016 U.S. presidential elections using administrative data. We merge precinct-level election returns, the smallest geography at which vote counts are available, with individual-level turnout records from 37 million registered voters in six key states. We find that both factors were substantively meaningful drivers of electoral change, but the balance varied by state. We estimate that pro-Republican Party (GOP) conversion among two-election voters was particularly important in states including Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania where the pro-GOP swings were largest. Our results suggest conversion remains a crucial component of electoral change.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View