Here are the highlights:
The conventional wisdom of voter turnout is that older voters turn out much more than younger voters. These numbers show that it depends on the overall turnout. Voting rates start to drop for ages 80+, so I don’t include them in some of the comparisons below.
There aren’t too many old voters. The 18-29 age group is the largest block of voters, about 29% of all registered voters. The 18-39 age group is 51% of all registered voters. The 80+ voters are only 6% of all registered voters. The 70+ voters are 13% of all registered voters.
In a high-turnout election like the 2008 General (overall turnout = 77%), every age group turns out a pretty high rate. It ranges from a low of 70% for the 18-23 age group vs. a high of 82% for the 50-59 age group.
In a medium-turnout election like the 2008 Presidential Primary (overall turnout = 46%), the older voters turn out as much as twice the rate of younger voters. It ranges from a low of 26% for the 18-23 age group vs. a high of 60% for the 60-69 age group.
In a low-turnout election like the 2008 State Primary (overall turnout = 19%), the older voters turn out as much as 7 times the rate of younger voters. It ranges from a low of 5% for the 18-23 age group vs. a high of 37% for the 70-79 age group.
As the overall turnout gets lower, the voting rate gap between old and young grows. In the 2008 General, the 80-89 age group turnout is about the same as the 18-23 age group (68% vs. 70%). In the 2008 State Primary, it’s about 5 times higher (32% vs. 6%).
There are significantly more female than male registered voters (55% vs. 44%) in Boston.
Female turnout is somewhat higher than male turnout in higher-turnout elections in all age groups, except for 80+ voters. It’s roughly even in low-turnout elections.
Democratic Party voters generally turn out significantly higher than Republican Party voters. This is may be largely due to the fact there are relatively few strong Republican Party local state-wide candidates.
There are about 9 times as many registered Democrats vs. registered Republicans (167K vs. 19K). Good luck to any Republican running for local office in Boston!
ACTIVE vs. INACTIVE STATUS
Inactive voters have been around 20-25% of all (active + inactive) voters in Boston since 2002. As a group, active voters vote at a far higher rate than inactive voters. In high-turnout elections like November presidential elections, the rate is 7-10 times higher. In lower-turnout elections, like uncontested primaries, the rate is 20-30 times higher.
I typically exclude the inactive voters from turnout calculations because the rate is so different. My understanding, from conversations with local election department staff, is that most of the inactive voters really don’t exist, but can’t be officially dropped from the voter file, as per federal HAVA rules (Help America Vote Act). In Massachusetts, the rules are: doesn’t respond to the local annual census, doesn’t show up as moved in RMV databases, doesn’t vote for 3 years, etc.).
For voter targeting purposes, you could segment inactive voters into frequent and infrequent sub-segments to identify inactive voters more likely to turn out. But in general, most of these voters no longer exist and it would be a waste of time to target them for voter contacts.
Rates of active vs. inactive voters vary widely around the state, even though there is supposed to be a uniform rule of how a voter gets tagged as inactive. Some towns of 10,000+ voters have ZERO inactive voters, like Franklin, Newburyport, Webster, and Fairhaven. Other cities have very high rates (30 – 60%) of inactive voters, like Lawrence, Chelsea, Haverhill, and Fitchburg. Obviously, the rules are not being enforced uniformly.