Last week I posted about voter turnout patterns. In 2008, about 64% of eligible citizens voted. So what reasons do non-voters give for not taking part in the election? The Census Bureau asked. I created a chart of the data found on p. 14 of the report by Thom File and Sarah Crissey.
UPDATE: Please note this data is for registered non-voters; about 89% of this group votes, significantly higher than that for eligible citizens overall. I apologize that I didn’t make the distinction clearer in my initial post.
Here are the reasons registered non-voters gave:
So the single most common reason (17.5%) for not voting was that the person was too busy or their schedule conflicted with available voting hours (at least those the respondent was aware of). Other common reasons were illness or disability (14.9%), the person just wasn’t interested in the election (13.4%), didn’t like the candidates or issues (12.9%), and other (11.3%).
Many of these barriers to voting could likely be addressed by the same basic changes: expanding voting options. Scheduling conflicts, being too busy or out of town, lack of transportation, and problems caused by illness or disability might all be ameliorated by expanded early voting and/or making it easy to vote by mail.
These issues were not equally problematic for all racial/ethnic groups. For instance, Asian-Americans and Hispanics (of any race) were more likely to report being too busy or that voting conflicted with their schedule than were White non-Hispanics or African Americans:
White non-Hispanics were more likely than other groups to say they didn’t vote because they didn’t like the candidates or issues:
The report also breaks responses down by age and education, so check out p. 14 if you’re interested in the patterns based on those demographics. It also includes data on why people don’t register, either — the most common being lack of interest or involvement in politics.Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.