Do Non-Voters Matter?

Sean McElwee in The Atlantic: “In 2014, just 41.9 percent of the voting-age citizen population of the United States voted. But the people who voted are not only in the minority, they form an unrepresentative minority … In many salient ways, voters are not like nonvoters: voters are richer, whiter, and older than other Americans. And their votes produce a government that caters to their interests.”

“It’s not just the demographics of voters and nonvoters that differ; so do their views … Nonvoters tend to support increasing government services and spending, guaranteeing jobs, and reducing inequality—all policies that voters, on the whole, oppose. Both groups support spending on the poor, but the margin among nonvoters is far larger.”

“In every instance, net support for greater government intervention in economic affairs was higher for the non-registered populations—sometimes dramatically so.”

“Brian Newman and John Griffin, who have found that voters are ‘almost always more conservative’ than nonvoters, have argued that, ‘increases in turnout may lead to greater policy liberalism.’”

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  • pisher

    Not if they remain non-voters.

    The only real weapon we have, and so many just throw it away.

    • Ken Reed

      So far as I am concerned, they lose their right to bitch.

      • pisher

        Unless they’re really poor, in which case they’re not bitching, so much as ignoring what’s going on outside their daily struggle to go on existing.

        And they should still vote, but given the way politicians have ignored them, hard to blame them for ignoring politicians most of the time.

  • S1AMER

    We will not have equality in America — economic, social, legal equality — until we have equality in levels of voting. It’s really that simple.

    • pisher

      Every nationwide election day–including midterms–should be a full national holiday. Obviously some people have to work, but it should be at the level of Christmas and Thanksgiving, in terms of people getting the day off. Banks should close. Like that. Not just so people will have time to vote, but to impress on everyone how serious it is.

      And of course early voting should be an option everywhere.

      I go back and forth over whether authority over elections should be transferred from the states to the Federal government, because that could backfire on a number of levels, but there should be more Federal oversight. States should not be able to decide they’re going to give people fewer opportunities to vote.

      We can’t get any of this done with the Supreme Court controlled by conservatives.

      So we’re going to have to win a few more elections. This matters a great deal more to our future than specific policy proposals being made by individual candidates, or how enthusiastic those candidates are, or how excited the base is by this or that candidate. Get excited about a third term, because without it, we’re going backwards.

  • Calbengoshi

    Strictly speaking, the answer to the question in the headline is “no,” the people who don’t vote don’t matter in setting policy because by failing to vote they allow people whose views are antagonistic to their views to be elected.

  • Ken Reed

    Failing to voter means you approve of the winner, whoever that is.

  • Detroitdic

    Staying home is a form of voting in the same way plunking counts. If denies a vote to your enemy while your vote is preserved. Of course you have to vote.

  • realnrh

    When everyone shows up to vote, Democrats win. This is why Republicans pass ‘voter ID’ laws, trying to make it harder to vote. Democrats are unilaterally disarming by not fighting back on this – they play defense exclusively, with lawsuits against those laws, when they ought to be using the states where they DO have control to implement, not just undoing those laws, but going beyond them. Have the state take over the job of ensuring that every single person is registered. Make it a legal requirement that everyone has to vote (or provide a reasonable explanation as to why they failed to vote, such as an emergency or making a protest statement), make it a holiday, make it illegal to penalize people for being delayed to work by voting, and make it a legal requirement that every person in the state must have equal access to voting equipment – no ‘eight hour lines in the poor area, zero wait in the rich part of town’ shenanigans. If people know they are ‘supposed’ to vote, most of them will.

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