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Poll: Dirty Politics And Gridlock Among Reasons People Don't Vote

Chion Wolf

During presidential election years, a majority of Americans vote. According to the United States Elections Project, about 60% of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2016 election. 

In New England, percentages vary by state, with Maine and New Hampshire at the high end with just above 70% casting ballots, and Rhode Island at the low end, matching the national average. But no matter how you break it down, the reality is a lot of people are choosing not to vote.

In 2018, the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston polled people who were unlikely to vote. They found out that unlikely voters are often politically aware, but they’re fed up with what they perceive as a corrupt political system. NEXT spoke with David Paleologos, director of the center, about the poll results.

On the demographics of unlikely voters:

“Well, they’re disproportionately young, disproportionately minority, and also disabled. These are people who tend to skew Democratic, but either because they’re not registered to vote or they’re registered and they’re just  fed up with the system, they don’t vote.”

On political knowledge of unlikely voters:

“Going into this poll I thought that a lot of people on this survey would be people who don’t follow the news, but we asked the question, ‘Would you say you follow what’s going on in government and public affairs?’ Almost two-thirds of respondents -- of nonvoters -- said that they follow what’s going on in government and public affairs either most of the time or some of the time.”

Why unlikely voters are fed up:

“People say in this poll that they think gridlock is the most important problem. ... But they’re also very much depressed about the future. And when we asked people who weren’t registered to vote, ‘What's the reason?’ they were saying stuff like ‘my vote doesn't count, it won’t make a difference, I’m apathetic, I don’t care, I’m too busy.’” 

On calming divisiveness to encourage voting:

“People in the poll are citing the negativity and the gridlock, and one wonders whether or not that’s an underlying strategy of the Republicans and the Republican Party and specifically of President Trump. Because if the nonvoters ... vote, that’s bad for Republicans because a lot of  the nonvoters who have just given up are predisposed to vote Democrat if you make them choose.”

On improving voter participation:

“I think education and civic engagement are important. We’ve done some work on this. There is a void and a demand by parents and teachers and even some state politicians in some of the states that we’ve polled. Civic engagement is an endorphin that’s really positive and that can really get people energized and juiced about participating in government. I think the future is in education, and if we focus on that, I think participation will increase.”

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