Those who do not vote decide elections as much as those who do


Those who do not vote are as responsible for the outcome of an election as those who do (especially in a low voter participation state like Arizona). New data makes it clear: Nonvoters handed Trump the presidency:

[The] Pew Research Center released an unusually robust survey of the 2016 electorate. In addition to having asked people how they voted, Pew’s team verified that they did, giving us a picture not only of the electorate but also of those who didn’t vote. There are a number of interesting details that emerge from that research, including a breakdown of President Trump’s support that confirms much of his base has backed him enthusiastically since the Republican primaries.

The data also makes another point very clear: Those who didn’t vote are as responsible for the outcome of the election as those who did. As we noted shortly after the election, about 30 percent of Americans were eligible to vote but decided not to, a higher percentage than the portion of the country who voted for either Trump or his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Pew’s data shows that almost half of the nonvoters were nonwhite and two-thirds were under age 50. More than half of those who didn’t vote earned less than $30,000 a year; more than half of those who did vote were over age 50.

Pew Research

Philip Bump of the Washington Post breaks down some highlights:

– Women tended to prefer Clinton to Trump and made up a higher percentage of the voting population than the nonvoting population. That split alone helps explain Clinton’s popular-vote victory.

– The split by party makes a difference: Republicans made up more of the voter pool than the nonvoter pool and, unsurprisingly, broadly supported Trump.

– Looking at race and ethnicity, we see how the heavier turnout of white voters affected the contest. Black and Hispanic voters voted much more heavily Democratic than white votes backed Trump, but they turned out less. While half of nonvoters were white, 74 percent of voters were.

– People under 30 preferred Clinton by 30 points but made up much more of the nonvoter population than the population that actually voted. A third of nonvoters were under 30; only 1 in 8 voters was in that age group.

– Whites making more than $30,000 a year skewed Republican and made up more of the voter pool than the nonvoter pool. Poorer whites and nonwhites generally made up more of the nonvoter pool than the voter pool.

– College graduates leaned toward Clinton — but whites without college degrees voted heavily for Trump. Nonwhites without a college education were 40 percent of the nonvoter pool and only 1 in 5 actual voters.

– Evangelicals were the most strongly pro-Trump of the religious groups of voters, and they represented more of the voting pool than the nonvoting pool. Black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics made up less of the voting population than the nonvoting population — and strongly preferred Clinton.

If we step back and look at the bigger picture — all the demographic data points from Pew’s analysis, including those above — the expected trend emerges.

Pew Research 2

Demographic groups that preferred Trump were three times as likely to be a bigger part of the voter pool than nonvoters. Among groups that preferred Clinton, they were about 50 percent more likely to be a bigger part of the nonvoting community.

Clinton nonetheless won the popular vote. But an increased turnout of under-30 voters in, say, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan could easily have changed the results of the history.

If you are not registered to vote, you can’t vote. Last week, Massachusetts became the latest state to enact universal (automatic) voter registration. Republican governor Charlie Baker signs automatic voter registration bill: The automatic voter registration law makes Massachusetts the 14th state, plus the District of Columbia, to adopt such a measure and the fourth this year.

Automatic voter registration will be on the statewide ballot in November in Nevada, and most observers expect it to pass. Voting-rights advocates are also trying to get AVR onto the ballot in Michigan.

Here in Arizona, support for automatic voter registration should be the litmus test in the Secretary of State race, and for other offices as well. Arizonans need to improve their voter participation rate in elections.

Why allow a small minority of voters to determine your fate for you? Democracy is a participation sport — get off the bench!

You can start by voting in the primary election currently underway.


  1. The Democratic party could encourage voting by offering candidates that voters are enthusiastic about, instead of constantly putting up Heritage candidates, at least locally. That is, candidates that are only running to get into politics, or are following in a mentor’s footsteps (instead of being passionate about the position they are running for) should really consider what their lackluster campaigns do to the voting turnout. And political machines in town–whether the Grijalvistas or the anti-Grijalvistas–should really consider stopping the machine funded candidacies that are often only on the ballot to humbug other candidates. In other words, stop the PLAYING at politics and lets really get some things moving! (Maybe with this research, the Hillaryites can stop blaming the Berniecrats and we can all stop reliving the 2016 election and its finger pointing?!)

    • Remember the 2016 poll that showed almost a quarter of millenials would rather a giant meteor hit the earth than vote for either Trump or Clinton? I am unsurprised that a large chunk of them did not vote (giant meteor not being on the ballot).

      As Betts said, candidates need to appeal to the voters, not rely on the letter next to their name on the ballot. many Dems seem to be trying to shame voters into voting rather than focusing on giving them something positive to vote for.

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