And the winner of November 6 elections is…apathy. Make that by a landslide too.
Eighty million people who were registered to vote in 2008 did not. That number will likely increase to 90 million this year. A new USA Today/Suffolk University poll released information on non-voters and the interesting data is that if these people voted, then Barack Obama would win in a landslide.
The survey interviewed those who gave their odds of voting to be 50/50 or not likely. About two-thirds of those interviewed were registered to vote. The racial and age demographics of those polled seemed to break down around national averages, although there seems to be a higher than average number of Southerners and unemployed. Of course, that could just be that the unemployed and those living in the South feel more disconnected from the political process.
When asked what they thought of Obama, the respondents gave a generally positive opinion by 31% to 22% with the rest being neutral responses. When asked directly if they viewed Obama favorably, those polled said they did by 55% to 37%. The non-voters even supported the job Obama is doing by a higher number than the rest of the country. Obama’s job approval by all Americans is usually split equally. The non-voters see Obama doing a good job 51% to 39%.
On the other hand, Mitt Romney did not generate positive responses. Only 3% gave Romney a positive nod while 40% gave very strong negative responses like “bad,” “untrustworthy,” “liar,” “bad,” “idiot” and “crook.” Romney was also viewed unfavorably 51% to 25%.
A recent Gallup Poll put Americans’ opinions of Congress at an all-time low of 10%. Ironically, those who don’t vote gave a much higher opinion of Congress. Congress had a favorability rating of 28% among them. Try to figure that one out.
Of those who were not registered to vote, Obama was the choice 3 to 1 over Romney. Even of those who were registered to vote, Obama led Romney strongly by a 2 to 1 margin. In both groups, Obama topped off at 43%. Those who did vote in 2008 chose Obama over John McCain by 44% to 20%.
While about 20% were undecided or would not make a choice, that still left 20% who prefer neither candidate. These people said they would prefer a third party over the two main parties.
These figures are very significant from two angles. First, there is a strong base of support for Obama in the non-voters. If his campaign can bring even some of them to the polls, then it could make a significant difference in a close election. The other important fact is the strength of the third parties. Again, if a third party could energize these people to vote, that could mean 18 million votes for a third party. It would send a strong shock wave to both major parties.
While many of the non-voters said that they didn’t vote because they were not interested or disenchanted with politics, 26% said they were “too busy.” Coupled with the 9% who did not label it a “priority,” that suggests that over one-third of the non-voters could be motivated to go to the polls if they felt there was a reason to vote.
The non-voters break evenly across the political spectrum. While 34% consider themselves moderates, an equal number of 19% consider themselves both liberal and conservative. The very liberal and very conservative perspectives are also nearly even at 8% and 9% respectively.
Strangely, a strong majority of the non-voters, 58%, agree that politics does make a difference in life. These numbers suggest that the biggest problem is not disgust with politics but disinterest. These people are not uninformed either. Sixty-four percent follow the news at least some of the time.
Surprisingly, 50% agreed with the statement “It will bother me if I don’t vote because I will be letting other people elect the president.” So while half the non-voters feel that politics is important and will be bothered by not voting, they will still not vote. There is only one way to describe this. It is hard-core apathy.