One of my favorite political exemplars when I argue for third party participation is the 1984 election - Reagan vs. Mondale. This was the most recent "landslide" in a presidential election. Reagan won, of course, but how you report the numbers can tell several very different stories. The way most of the media reported it was this way:
Reagan - 58.77%
Mondale - 40.56%
That's the total popular vote and yup that's a landslide. But what if we take a look at registered voters, then whopping winning number of 58%+ becomes:
Reagan - 43.8%
A landslide sounds like a huge win, a mandate from the people. Yet only 44% of the registered voters came out to support Ronald Reagan in his big win. I know, this is where someone says "Decisions are made by those who show up" or "If you don't vote, you don't get to complain afterwards." My alternate interpretation would be that the political process in 1984, so turned off 25%+ of the registered voters that they basically voted 'None of the Above'.
There is one more significant way to look at the final numbers in 1984 and that is the percentage of the Voting Age Population who supported Reagan in his reelection bid. Of those over 18 years of age the numbers are truly abysmal:
Reagan - 31.2%. Hail to the Chief!
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The last time I trotted out those numbers in a political discussion, someone asked me if current voting numbers were better or worse today. Being that this is a political question, I felt perfectly justified in ignoring the actual question and instead supplying a talking point from my crack campaign staff. Here it is just for you:
2000 Presidential Election
Bush - 47.87%
Gore - 48.38%
Bush - 32.02%
Gore - 32.46%
Voting Age Population
Bush - 24.12%
Gore - 24.38%