Figuring Out Why 93 Million People Didn’t Vote

Figuring Out Why 93 Million People Didn’t Vote

Figuring Out Why 93 Million People Didn’t Vote

Forty percent of voters didn’t participate last month. A new report outlines who they are, and why they didn’t cast a ballot. 


Forty percent of voters didn’t cast their ballots on Election Day—and a new report explains some of the reasons why. The Medill School of Journalism conducted an online survey of voters and nonvoters that resulted in a study named “Nonvoters in America 2012.” It divides nonvoters in six distinct categories, and recommends ways to encourage voters to participate in future elections.

Some 126 million people cast ballots last month, but 93 million people did not. According to the survey, when added up together, nonvoters tended to be young, less educated and poor. But that can obscure the different categories of nonvoters that can be broken up into distinct groups.

Take the group called the Pessimists. They’re less educated, less-income-earning middle-aged and retired men who lean conservative, like small government, and dislike President Obama. They’re named because of their pessimistic outlook on the future of the economy. At 27 percent, they made up the single biggest group of nonvoters.

The Active Faithfuls, meanwhile, were well-educated, middle-class Southern black and white churchgoers who identify as independents and moderates. They made up 11 percent of nonvoters, largely because they didn’t support either candidates for religious reasons.

And then, there were Doers. They’re well-educated, liberal-leaning Obama supporters. These young Latino men identified a deep political engagement, but didn’t vote last month because logistical reasons kept them from doing so.

Those surveyed cited a variety of reasons for not voting. Many simply didn’t have time to vote, were sick or dealing with an emergency. Yet nearly a third of nonvoters were not registered, or had trouble attempting to do so—making them ineligible on Election Day.

Voters and nonvoters alike want cleaner government, additional candidates and the ability to vote online. Twelve percent of voters can't think of what it is that would encourage them to vote, and 10 percent say nothing can be done to get them to cast a ballot.

While the report doesn’t fully address the issue of former felons who have been disenfranchised, it indicates that 3 percent of nonvoters were either serving time or had a record that prevented them from voting. The survey was conducted online, so it may be likely that very poor people, as well as those who live in rural areas or in Indian country, may not have been eligible to participate in the survey because of the digital divide, and are thus not being counted.

To see the results of the survey yourself, click here.

—Aura Bogado

Follow Voting Rights Watch for more post-election news and analysis.

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