Was it turnout?

The CEC has released top-level turnout numbers for the recent elections. They have not yet put the full file online, so we cannot see the sub-district breakdowns. Still, a lot of people have been wondering if turnout drove the unexpected election results. There are some interesting numbers here.

Remember, some places always have lower turnout than others. It is harder for people who live in Taipei to return to Hualien to vote than it is to get to Hsinchu. Also, it matters whether people generally expected the race to be close or not. In this table, I’m listing the turnout for each city and county this year. I also put the 2012 presidential election turnout to indicate whether turnout is naturally lower in a particular place. Finally, I give my subjective opinion of how close the race was expected to be.

  2014 2012 Diff  
Taipei 70.5 76.8 -6.3 A little close
New Taipei 61.7 75.9 -14.2 Not close
Taoyuan 62.7 74.6 -11.9 Not close
Taichung 71.9 75.8 -3.9 Close
Tainan 65.9 74.2 -8.3 Not close
Kaohsiung 66.4 75.9 -9.5 Not close
Hsinchu County 68.8 76.1 -7.3 Not close
Miaoli 72.8 74.6 -1.8 Not close
Changhua 72.9 73.5 -0.6 Very close
Nantou 73.1 71.1 2.0 A little close
Yunlin 74.1 68.9 5.2 Close
Chiayi County 74.2 72.5 1.7 Not close
Pingtung 73.5 72.7 0.8 Not close
Yilan 70.5 72.5 -2.0 Not close
Hualien 61.8 64.6 -2.8 Not close
Taitung 67.8 61.8 6.0 A little close
Penghu 66.3 59.0 7.3 Very close
Keelung City 63.9 72.1 -8.2 A little close
Hsinchu City 62.9 75.7 -12.8 not close
Chiayi City 71.0 73.5 -2.5 A little close
Kinmen 45.2 46.7 -1.5 ?
Lienchiang 67.1 65.8 1.3 ?

This looks very interesting. If the surprises were a results of lots of blue voters staying at home, turnout should be markedly depressed in those surprising areas. The most surprising places were New Taipei, Taoyuan, and Hsinchu City, and those three all had double digit drops in turnout. The other places with high drops (Kaohsiung, Tainan, Keelung, Hsinchu County, and Taipei) were also places where the KMT did particularly poorly. This is very strong evidence in support of the hypothesis that blue voters stayed at home.

However, there is another group of districts where the DPP also did better than expected that did not follow this pattern. Changhua and Chiayi City saw very small drops from 2012, and Nantou, Yunlin, and Penghu actually went up.

The two groups of districts are quite different, and they might be experiencing different phenomena. The larger, more urbanized, mostly northern places might have seen blue voters stay at home, while the more rural, southern places might have seen intense mobilization of potential green voters or widespread conversion of former blue voters to the green side.

Remember, this is all speculation. Many of the big drops also occurred in places that were not expected to be competitive, and that might be the critical factor. If it was, then presumably equal numbers of blue and green supporters stayed at home and turnout did not decisively affect the results. The numbers look important, but without more evidence we shouldn’t jump to firm conclusions.

5 Responses to “Was it turnout?”

  1. Pat Says:

    How does turnout compare to the last round of local elections in ’09/’10? I would think that that comparison may be more revealing given turnout is generally higher for Presidential elections.

    • frozengarlic Says:

      The overall turnout of the presidential election is irrelevant to my point. The purpose is to see which places were most unlike a “normal” turnout. If the turnout in the presidential election had been lower, New Taipei and Yunlin would still have been the most extreme places. Also, the turnout in 2009/10 depended in part on how close and how intense those races were. New Taipei, if you recall, was extremely intense last time so the dropoff might be particularly dramatic this time, and that might be misleading.

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