Just in the past few months, elections in the U.S. have been decided by hundreds of votes. The 2016 presidential election tilted to Donald Trump with fewer than 80,000 votes across three states, with a dramatic impact on the country. Yet, only about 6 in 10 eligible voters cast ballots in 2016. Among the other 4 in 10 who did not vote was Megan Davis. The 31-year-old massage therapist in Rhode Island never votes, and she’s proud of her record. “I feel like my voice doesn’t matter,” she said on a recent evening at a park in East Providence, R.I. “People who suck still are in office, so it doesn’t make a difference.”
Davis might sound contrarian, but she’s not. Although these days more Americans say they’re enthusiastic about voting in a midterm election than at any point in the last two decades, come Election Day, nonvoters like Davis will still probably be the norm. For every 10 adults eligible to vote, only about four cast a ballot in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections.
You have to go back to the turn of the 20th century to find a midterm election when a solid majority of people voted (of course, back then, the right to vote was far more limited, so the eligible voting pool was smaller, more male and more white).
Every election cycle there’s a lot of attention on who voted and why. But there’s another important question: Who is not voting — and what impact does that have?
The wealthy tend to vote more frequently. Nonvoters are more likely to be poor, young, Hispanic or Asian-American. Some research also indicates they’re more likely to align with the Democratic Party.