A raffle ticket purchase usually comes with a disclaimer — “you must be present to win.”
Elections operate under the same premise. Those who vote stand a better chance of getting their concerns addressed than those who don’t. In the 2010 midterm elections, just 21 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in America voted. Sixty-one percent of folks over 65 cast ballots. Candidates (who later become office holders) keep that in mind. The 2012 attack ads verify the preferences shown to voters, compared to all Average Joes and Janes in the U.S.
“Think of all the attention that is paid to Social Security and Medicare, rather than youth issues,” Peter Levine — director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement — said by telephone Friday from his office at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
Which is not to say those government-funded retirement and health-care programs are not crucial topics; they are, indeed. Yet, as politicians solidify their “five-point plans,” the issues that make the cut on those lists typically target voters, rather than nonvoters.
That said, how would the 2012 campaign (and ultimately the local, state and federal government) be different if every American citizen over 18 voted on Nov. 6?
On Thursday, the Pew Research Center released an analysis of the people the politicians, pollsters and pundits are not clamoring about — nonvoters. They’re not a tiny demographic. In fact, nearly 43 percent of the voting-age population did not vote in 2008, an election that inspired the broadest public participation in decades. Four years later, Pew surveyed, nationwide, nonvoters — adults who are unable to vote, and those who choose not to vote. Their priorities contrast significantly from those of voters. So, how different would politicians campaign and then govern if everybody voted?
“We don’t put any judgment on that,” said Pew associate director Carroll Doherty, “but it would certainly change things by looking at those tables [of survey questions].”
First, let’s identify nonvoters. Statistically, they’re younger, less educated and less wealthy than likely voters. Most (64 percent) aren’t married, compared to voters (59 percent are married), according to the Pew study. A larger slice of the nonvoting population is Hispanic (21 percent), while 7 percent of likely voters are Hispanic. Surprisingly, more than one-third of nonvoters are actually registered, yet have little or no interest in the election.
“These are people who are pretty disengaged from the campaign and the election,” Doherty said, speaking Thursday by phone from the Pew Center in Washington.
Next, let’s discern their thoughts. Though disengaged, nonvoters still have opinions, and they’re not easy to stereotype. Their views on domestic and foreign policy tend to be more liberal than voters, but they mirror voters on most social issues, such as same-sex marriage, immigration and abortion. Most nonvoters (67 percent) favor bringing troops in Afghanistan home as soon as possible, while just 56 percent of likely voters agree. Meanwhile, 54 percent of nonvoters say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 39 percent think it should be illegal, almost identical to likely voters (55 and 38).
They’re less partisan than likely voters, with 44 percent of nonvoters identifying themselves as independent, 29 percent Democrat, and 17 percent Republican. Those who consider themselves liberal are nearly the same (25 percent of nonvoters, 20 percent of likely voters), but only 28 percent of nonvoters identify as conservative compared to 44 percent of likely voters.
Finally, unlike the dead-even split among likely voters in the presidential race, nonvoters overwhelmingly favor President Obama (59 percent) over Republican Mitt Romney (24 percent).
One group of Americans is the least engaged of all — people under 30 with no college education. In terms of public policy considerations, less educated young people “are left out,” Levine said. Yet, some of U.S. society’s greatest concerns — war, unemployment, and a lack of health-care coverage — affect them most directly.
Why will so few young, less-affluent, less-educated, unmarried Americans go to the polls Tuesday, when they have so much at stake?
The hard-line argument places the responsibility on those nonvoters. If they want their president, senator, Congress member, governor, state legislator or county commissioner to remember their interests, they need to get up and vote; otherwise, don’t complain. And, that’s a valid point. Still, others would legitimately blame the unnecessarily cumbersome voting rules, crafted more for people living and working in stable situations, rather than those who may have had two or three addresses, or a last-name change since the previous election. Voting registration closes 29 days before the election in Indiana — precisely the time when most Americans start paying attention to the campaign. In this age of instant technology, the Hoosier state should adopt same-day registration.
The saddest reality is that both sides are comfortable with the situation.
Nonvoters find it easier to stay uninvolved. The powerful prefer those nonparticipants stay that way.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A raffle ticket purchase usually comes with a disclaimer — “you must be present to win.”
RONN MOTT: Mushrooms = Hoosier happiness
Someone wrote or said a few years ago a statement that would define the word “Hoosier.” According to this urban legend, a Hoosier is somebody dribbling a basketball around the Indy 500 while eating a fried, morel mushroom. It did not define me, at the time.
EDITORIAL: Insult to an independent press
Distrust of government secrecy has been elevated to an exceptional level with the disclosure the Justice Department covertly examined two months of Associated Press phone records to determine who leaked details to the AP about a foiled terrorist plot.
READERS' FORUM: May 17, 2013
Hinduism doesn’t deserve ridicule — Shefali Purohit, Terre Haute
RONN MOTT: Israel’s Air Force
Recently the Israeli Air Force bombed and rocketed a convoy leaving Syria going to Lebanon with rockets that were going to be used to attack Israel. It did not get there. It was destroyed.
EDITORIAL: Noteworthy in the news: Dashing finish for the Sycamores
It’s always thrilling to see Indiana State University’s athletic teams do well in high-level competition, and two specific teams rose to impressive heights last weekend in the Missouri Valley Conference outdoor track and field championships.
Readers' Forum: May 16, 2013
Moving Deming folks sounds ‘nuts’
Readers' Forum: May 15, 2013
Participants rise to the challenge: I would like to write a letter congratulating all the Wabash Valley Roadrunners that competed in the One America Indianapolis Mini Marathon.
RONN MOTT: Media merry-go-round
Round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows. That isn’t a unique phrase to this writer or to this era in time. But, when it comes to the musical chairs of broadcasting, it certainly applies.
LIZ CIANCONE: Courts see a different appearance than cops
Have you ever noticed the transformation between the arrest of an accused lawbreaker and the first appearance in court?
READERS' FORUM: May 14, 2013
ISTEP failure exposes flaws
Community hasn’t changed its spirit
Egregious threat to nation’s defense
READERS' FORUM: May 13, 2013
• Women’s group criticizes Bucshon
• Let’s hope this doesn’t come true
• Many get thanks for fest success
MARK BENNETT: Life at face value: Mom’s simple advice still presents a valuable daily challenge
Most moms don’t base their advice on scientific research.
(Unless, of course, your mother is a scientific researcher. If so, carry a No. 2 pencil and take good notes.)
EDITORIAL: Better monitoring needed to prevent local environmental messes
The nasty, hazardous messes lurking in the community raise a bottom-line, red-flag question. Could these environmental problems have been monitored and, thus, prevented?
GUEST COLUMN: Nursing more than medicine and bandages
Being a nurse … Like most nurses, I chose this profession because I had a strong desire to help others and no other career would allow me the opportunity to touch lives the way I have been able to through nursing.
READERS' FORUM: May 12, 2013
Vigo Youth Football, entering 45th year, seeks new support
Media ignoring important case on abortions
Proud to be old-fashioned
Guns in school? What’s next?
Promoting hate not a ‘brave’ act
FLASHPOINT: Again in 2013 General Assembly, middle class generally ignored
Last year, the people of Indiana entrusted the Republican Party with some of their most precious possessions.
RONN MOTT: ‘Raccoons II’
In the Algonquin Indian language, raccoon means “working with hands.” They are really cute little fellows until they injure a child, or a pet, or leave feces around where you certainly do not want it.
Readers’ Forum: May 11, 2013
I just wanted to express my disappointment at the lack of response shown by President Obama after the Boston Marathon bombings.
Readers' Forum: May 10, 2013
CANDLES event plants new seed: On April 26, CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center hosted an event called “Sowing Seeds of Peace: A Celebration of Spring” at the Apple House. Our purpose was to introduce people to our concept of forgiveness as a seed for peace.
RONN MOTT: ‘NRA Convention’
At the recent NRA Convention in Houston, Texas, where the right-wing political hot air almost lifted the convention's building off its foundation, the NRA trotted out the forever yours political dame of the right wing, Sarah Palin. Sarah did not disappoint.
EDITORIAL: Memo to U.S.A.: You can ‘SPPRAK’ just as we do in Vigo County
Our kids, truly, are ‘Making a Difference’
Some words in praise of boring government — Indiana’s
A conservative Republican governor has super majorities in both branches of the legislature. One might suspect such one-party government leads to major changes in public policy. This did not happen in 2013 in Indiana.
EDITORIAL: Doc’s prescient prescription
Viewed through a 2013 prism, Doc Bowen’s response to the AIDS epidemic looks merely prudent, routine.
RONN MOTT: ‘Heritage gone’
The last high school I attended was being torn down just a few days ago. I didn't learn about it until I saw classmate Dick Mills on television and a display he had put together about State football championships in the middle 1930's. I began elementary school with Dick Mills. That was Matthew South Elementary School on South Sixth Street in Clinton, Indiana. After seeing Dick on TV, it dawned on me that all schools I had attended in Clinton have been torn down.
LIZ CIANCONE: We always want more than we need
Washington seems more preoccupied with the unemployment rate than they are about the constant stalemate. Still with thousands out of work and the unemployment rate hovering somewhere between 7 percent and 9 percent, it does deserve more than a passing nod.
FLASHPOINT: Indiana lawmakers reinforced school safety mechanisms
Nothing is more important to me than the safety of my children. Every parent has felt that instant, apprehensive rush when their child plays too close to the street or falls down while playing soccer and it is our responsibility as parents to implement every safety mechanism we can muster to protect our kids.
READERS’ FORUM: May 6, 2013
• Money drives our newfound ‘needs’
• Guns not the only dangerous objects
MARK BENNETT: Should I stay or should I go?
Some have their Bill Clinton-era Cavalier packed (with the trunk bungee-ed shut), apartment cleaned (except for the fridge), and iPhone GPS locked onto the fastest route out of Terre Haute. Others are staying — until they find a better job, or because they’re starting a career here, or because this town feels like home. In each case, a new stage of life begins today.
EDITORIAL: Education remains worth the cost
Within the next few weeks, each of the local colleges will have conducted graduation ceremonies. A few days later, a different Class of 2013 will don caps and gowns for commencement — the seniors at five Vigo County high schools. It is still a smart, worthy aspiration for those high school grads to replicate the achievement of those college students by earning a higher-education degree.
College Class of '13 gets a little extra advice
Local college grads will hear commencement speakers offer life and career advice this month. We’re offering them an extra dose here from folks who’ve found success in various vocations and regions of the nation. Many have Terre Haute roots.
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