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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Pew Releases Findings by Study of Non-Voting

In her article, “Here’s Why Nonvoters Say They Stayed Home In The Midterms,” HuffPo’s  political editor, Ariel Edwards-Levy reports on the findings of a new survey from the Pew Research Center:

Although turnout in this year’s midterms was higher than it’s been in a century, about half the voting-eligible public didn’t turn out. Nonvoters span every conceivable demographic group but tend to skew younger, poorer and less white than those who do turn out.

As a group, nonvoters also tend to be generally disengaged from public affairs and cynical about the government and their own roles in civic life. Nearly half of nonvoters in the most recent election said their personal dislike of politics played at least a minor role in their decision not to vote, according to Pew, with 44 percent saying they didn’t think their vote would make a difference and 41 percent saying that voting was inconvenient. (Nonvoters could select multiple reasons they didn’t vote.)

Three in 10 nonvoters said they weren’t registered or eligible to vote, 35 percent said they didn’t care who won the congressional elections and 22 percent said they’d forgotten to vote.

The Pew online survey, which included 10,640 adults online Nov. 7-16, (1,767 nonvoters included), is likely to be the most insightful study of why people didn’t vote in the 2018 midterm elections.

Edwards-Levy’s article includes this chart, which illustrates some of the major reasons why adults don’t vote.


Looking at the six reasons provided in the chart, it’s instructive to consider which of those problems can be solved with cost-efective remedies. There’s may not be much that can be done to reduce the percentages of those who say they “don’t like politics” and those who believe their vote “doesn’t matter,” outside of improved educational outreach and more educational videos on civic responsibility and voter empowerment.

The same may be true for those who “don’t care” who wins congressional elections. However, Edwards-Levy notes that “A 61 percent majority of the nonvoters said they wished they had voted, with the remaining 38 percent saying they had no regrets.” That indicates that there is room for improvement

But Democratic activists must get more engaged in projects to address the complaints about inconvenience and registration issues. Every Democratic state and local party should have a task force  to help identify and correct all such access problems. As for the 22 percent who “forgot to vote,” wherever possible, the offices of the Secretary of State should send out text messages alerting voters about registration and early voting deadlines, times and places. Dems must also escalate the fight for automatic registration in every state.

Edwards-Levy also reports that “Half of white Americans who cast a ballot in-person said they didn’t have to wait in line at all to vote, compared to 43 percent of black voters and 39 percent of Hispanic voters.” The challenge here is to figure out exactly where and when the lines were longest, and press the case for better hours, locations, parking, and more early voting.

More information about the methodology of the Pew Survey is available here.

2 comments on “Pew Releases Findings by Study of Non-Voting

  1. Ted A Parkhurst on

    So our job as Democrats is to convince non-voters that they will be rewarded by voting for our candidates and punished for voting (or non-voting, which is a kind of negative statement in itself) for Republicans or others.

  2. Martin Lawford on

    Let’s make it more convenient for people to do what they don’t want to do because that is easier than making them want to do it. That way, we don’t have to ask ourselves why they don’t consider it worth doing.


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