Voter Apathy: One Giant Leap From Democracy

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For a country of the people, by the people, and for the people, the United States has a problem with getting the people to vote. In a PEW Research study conducted last August, the United States ranked 31st out of 35 countries in voter turnout. Although, according to Daily Dot, voter turnout was higher in the 2016 election than in 2012, with 59.7% of Americans going to the polls compared to 58.6% in 2012. This past November, 40.3% of eligible voters opted out of the process. That’s hardly an increase to write home about.

One of the most troubling causes for a low voter turnout is voter apathy. Voter apathy has best been seen during the midterm elections when the voter turnout drops faster than a lead zeppelin. Only 36.4% of eligible voters went to the polls in the 2014-midterm elections. The lack of engagement is one of the reasons that a Congress with a 10% approval rating can have a 90% incumbency.

When elected representatives are this widely reviled, but are being voted in because one third of the country cares to vote them in, then society has a problem. A problem where the views of the public aren’t being represented, because they choose not to take the action in order to change the problem, is a willful step away from democracy. This poses a threat to democracy because without an accurate metric of where a citizenry stands on socio political issues politicians cannot, and will sometimes choose not to accurately represent the interests of their constituents.

When the people choose not to go to the polls, they choose not to use their voice. If their voice isn’t represented by a party or by a politician, citizens have the option to write in a vote that represents their political views. Ultimately this right is the difference between choosing your politicians and your politicians choosing for you.

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Democratic public attitudes and political participation

This short paragraph will explain certain facts that shape the American electoral system by providing data obtained using a combination of aggregate and comparative survey data.

According to Powell, despite the relatively favorable citizen attitudes, voter turnout in American national elections is far below the average of 80% of the eligible electorate that votes in other industrialized nations. Surprisingly another fact indicates that the United States overpasses any other democratic nation in political awareness within its citizens.

How is a nation who is politically aware not interested in voting? The institutional context by which individuals act such as legal rules, social and political structures and configuration of partisanship all shape and have a big effect on an individual’s choices, making it hard for an individual to change his/her beliefs.

The United states is advantaged about 5% by political attitudes, but disadvantaged 13% by the party system and institutional factors.l and up to 14% by the registration laws. 

Powell, G. American Voter Turnout in Comparative Perspective. The American Political Science Review, 80(1), 17-43. doi:10.2307/1957082