Voter Turnout & Access

U.S. Voter Turnout in Global Perspective

03.29.2023 Public Wise Research
Key Takeaways
  • U.S. voter turnout is on the rise but still is not at very high levels relative to many other countries.

  • When looking at what factors result in increased voter turnout around the world, one sticks out as having clear benefits with minimum downsides: automatic voter registration.

  • Another strategy to increase voter turnout overall is to focus on increasing turnout among specific populations within the U.S. where people face economic hardships that reduce the likelihood of going to the polls.

  • Countries with mandatory voting tend to have high turnout rates, but this policy may be hard to implement in the U.S., where public opinion on this policy is split.


Voter turnout in the U.S. has grown in recent years, but the U.S. is still middle ranking in the world in terms of the percentage of eligible voters who cast their ballot in national elections. In 2020, 62.4% of voting-age Americans turned out to vote, representing the highest level of election participation in the country in two decades, continuing a wave of increased voter turnout since the 2018 midterms. But the recent election turnout still trails behind that of many other countries, particularly in Latin America, Europe, and Oceania.

In this report, we discuss the factors that research has identified as contributing to differences in voter turnout around the globe and what this tells us about increasing voter turnout in the United States. Based on our review of the literature, the most promising policies to increase voter turnout in the U.S. are automatic voter registration and continued voting outreach and support targeted at communities with lower incomes.


Report prepared by Ella Wind, PhD.