Voter Turnout Essay

1603 words - 6 pages

The Problem

Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines democracy "as a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by the people" ( But the one big problem is that "We the people" are not exercising their "supreme power" to determine the U.S. government. Less than half of the eligible electorate showed up at the polls for the 1996 U.S. presidential election. While lower turnout has marred previous presidential elections, 1996's voter turnout dipped below 50 percent for the first time in more than 30 years. It appears that the people's increasing cynicism about politicians that they lie to get elected and the perception that people have no respect or confidence in the two major political parties contributes to voter apathy and lower voter turnout. (CVD, 2004)


There are many reasons why voter turnout varies among groups and over time in democracies. These reasons are generally framed in terms of factors, which either increase or decrease an individual's probability of voting. The reasons can be grouped within four broad general categories: demographic (education, income, age, race, gender); psychological (political interest, alienation, sense of political efficacy, etc.); contextual (e.g., registration laws, competitiveness of campaign, etc.); and rational (e.g., citizens perceive the costs of voting outweigh the benefits, citizen's perceive little difference in candidates and thus no point in voting, etc.) (Ragsdale & Rusk, 1993; Niemi & Wiesberg, 1993; Rosenstone, 1993). Although low voter turnout is considered by many to be an example of what is wrong with the political process or an indication of disinterest in voting, it doesn't always have to be a sign of foreboding. Sometimes low turnout is an indication that the electorate is basically pleased with the way things are and doesn't feel an overwhelming need to make major changes.

Research Design

Data used for this term paper was obtained from Houghton Mifflin Company through the 1996 Voter's Data Set found as part of the Crosstabs package. The dependent variable (rows) I chose to highlight the 1996 U.S. presidential election voting pattern was the Final Voting Choice. The independent variables (columns) I chose were personal traits such as education, income, age, religious affiliations, race, and gender. The data made available by the Crosstabs program was compiled in a statistically scientific way by a national survey of citizens before and after the 1996 election. The objective of this research is to determine which of the personal traits of the electorate has a positive, negative, or an indifferent impact on voter turnout. Therefore, I have made the following five assertions in the below listed hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: Voters with higher education (which generally results in higher household incomes) are more likely to vote.

Hypothesis 2: Young voters are least likely to vote when...

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