April 25, 2018
Like many other things, voting is a habit—and it is one that millions of Americans will never pick up. In fact, many U.S. adults who could cast their ballots stay home during every election. And the 2018 midterms are not likely to be much different, despite broad disapproval of President Donald Trump and discontent with the direction of the country, based on findings of a poll conducted by USA Today/Suffolk University and released on April 23.
Those who regularly skip a trip to the polls cite a broad array of factors driving their lack of participation. Some say they don’t trust politicians, or they don’t think their vote will change anything, the pollsters note. Others say the electoral choices are uninspiring—or they simply don’t have the time and transport to get to their local polling place.
In a nationwide survey of 800 infrequent or unregistered voters, 56% of poll respondents said they felt the country was on the wrong track and nearly 55% rated Trump unfavorably. Yet 83% of those polled said they are “not very likely” or “not at all likely” to vote in 2018.
Fifteen percent of unregistered voters said their vote “doesn’t count” or “won’t make a difference.” Nine percent of registered voters said the same.
Nearly 63% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “I don’t pay much attention to politics because nothing ever gets done – it’s a bunch of empty promises.” And 68% agreed or strongly agreed with this sentiment: “I don’t pay much attention to politics because it is so corrupt.”
“Even if there is a surge in turnout, a majority of America will not vote in November,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “It’s a chilling story to tell. These people don’t vote. They could hate Trump, but they could still not vote because they hate political parties, they hate Democrats, they hate the bureaucracy, they hate the infighting, the negativity—all of that.”
The voter turnout rate for midterm elections is reliably lower than for presidential elections. In 2014, only 36% of eligible voters actually voted, while 144 million stayed home, according to data from the U.S. Election Project.
“Barack Obama’s strong support in the 2008 and 2012 elections brought voters of all races to the polls, including white voters,” Paleologos said. “When Obama was no longer on the ballot, some of these voters just walked away. Democrats can’t underestimate the value of a young, inspirational nominee.”
Obama was one of several names that came up when respondents were asked who would “definitely” motivate them to register and vote in a presidential election. The top responses were Bernie Sanders (7%), Joe Biden (4%), Donald Trump (4%) and Michelle Obama (4%).
Research contact: @usatoday