I noticed and so did several others that vote counts seemed very low for the 2012 moderator elections. Here are some statistics.
Moderator Election for 2012
5,874 voters were eligible
2,198 visited the site during the election
652 visited the election page
This seems like a depressingly low participation rate for our site and I'll admit that I was shocked when I saw the results. I was interested and decided to a small case study to see how we compared to other sites on the StackExchange network.
Just as a note - I am not a statistician and the numbers presented here are rather basic computations. However, I believe that they communicate an encouraging trend for our community.
I visited election pages for every other full, non-beta site on the network that held an election at some point in early to mid 2011. The following graph is a scatter plot for each of these sites of what I call Interested User Conversion (IUC) rate. This percentage is computed by:
Number of People Who Voted / Number of People Who Visited the Election Page.
StackExchange IUC Scatterplot
Where was Programmers.SE IUC in 2011?
Stackoverflow - 35.173%
Serverfault - 54.770%
Programmers.SE - 55.448%
StackExchange Overall - 63.483%
This means that in 2011, roughly 55% of people who were eligible to vote and visited our election page actually bothered to vote. That's actually a very strong percentage and not that surprising - people involved with the site in its earliest phases tend to be stronger supporters and more interested in things like elections.
How does this stack up to our 2012 elections? Only a handful of sites have completed elections so far, so I only have Stack Overflow and Server Fault to compare ourselves against.
Basic 2012 Comparisons
We had 66% more eligible voters this election than in 2011, and we increased our number of votes by about 23%.
Compare this with Stack Overflow which added around 40% more eligible voters and only managed to increase their votes by .48%. That's right - Stack Overflow participation remained virtually static in spite of their increased voter base. Our own numbers are even stronger when looked at in this light:
Stack Overflow added 29,130 eligible voters but only had 24 additional people vote.
Serverfault added 2,516 eligible voters and had 102 FEWER people vote.
Programmers.SE added 3,944 eligible voters and had 68 additional people vote.
Now lets look at the IUC statistic I brought up with 2011 a little earlier.
Where was Programmers.SE IUC in 2012?
Stackoverflow - 27.953%
Serverfault - 43.882%
Programmers.SE - 45.552%
We had a decrease in the ratio of our participation - this is to be expected. We will always add more users than will participate in things like elections. However, our growth rate is very encouraging, especially compared to Stack Overflow and Serverfault.