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Survey Answers, Why Don't More Americans Vote?

Two-thirds say special interests control elections

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Why do so many qualified Americans fail to vote? Let's ask them. The California Voter Foundation (CVF) has released the results of a statewide survey on the attitudes of infrequent voters and citizens eligible to vote but not registered. The first-of-its-kind survey sheds new light on the incentives and barriers to voting, along with the sources of information that influence people when they do vote.

With expectations for much higher than normal voter turnout in the November election, the survey results provide timely benefits as well, according to CVF President Kim Alexander.

“For election officials and others working to maximize voter participation, these survey results provide clear direction on the messages most likely to get infrequent voters to participate in the upcoming election, and on the messages that will motivate more nonvoters to register,” Alexander said in a press release, noting that there are 6.4 million Californians who are eligible but unregistered to vote.

Just too busy?
The survey found that 28 percent of infrequent voters and 23 percent of those unregistered said they do not vote or do not register to vote because they are too busy.

“This tells us that many Californians may benefit from more information about the time-saving advantages of early voting and voting by absentee ballot,” Alexander said. Voter registration forms are available in post offices, libraries and DMV offices.

Alexander said the survey’s findings might also benefit those campaigns trying to reach infrequent and new voters in advance of the election. The perception that politics are controlled by special interests is widely shared among two-thirds of the survey’s respondents, and represents a significant barrier to voter participation. A feeling that candidates don’t really speak to them was cited as the second leading reason why infrequent voters and nonvoters do not vote.

Even non-voters say voting is important
Still, 93 percent of infrequent voters agreed that voting is an important part of being a good citizen and 81 percent of nonvoters agreed it is an important way to voice their opinions on issues that affect their families and communities.

“Civic duty and self-expression provide strong incentives to get potential voters to the polls, despite pervasive cynicism about the influence of special interests,” said Alexander.

Family and friends encourage others to vote
The survey found that family and friends influence how infrequent voters decide to vote as much as daily newspapers and TV news. Among infrequent voters, 65 percent said conversations with their families and local newspapers were influential sources of information when it comes to making voting decisions. Network TV news rated as influential among 64 percent, followed by cable TV news at 60 percent, and conversations with friends at 59 percent. For more than half of the infrequent voters surveyed, phone calls and door-to-door contact by political campaigns are not influential sources of information when deciding how to vote.

The survey also found that family upbringing plays a strong role in determining voting habits as adults. 51 percent of nonvoters surveyed said they grew up in families that did not often discuss political issues and candidates.

Who are the non-voters?
The survey found that nonvoters are disproportionately young, single, less educated and more likely to be of an ethnic minority than infrequent and frequent voters. 40 percent of nonvoters are under 30 years old, compared to 29 percent of infrequent voters and 14 percent of frequent voters. Infrequent voters are much more likely to be married than nonvoters, with 50 percent of infrequent voters married compared to only 34 percent of nonvoters. 76% of nonvoters have less than a college degree, compared to 61 percent of infrequent voters and 50 percent of frequent voters. Among nonvoters, 54 percent are white or Caucasian compared to 60 percent of infrequent voters and 70 percent of frequent voters.

Also See:
Election Day Q&A
If You Make a Mistake While Voting
People Who Can Help You at the Polls
Counting the Votes
Why Many Americans Fail to Vote
Registering to Vote

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