Recent Pew study of who votes

The Pew Research Center For the People and The Press, in conjunction with The Associated Press, recently released the results of a survey study of who votes, who doesn’t, and who does only intermittently. Here’s a snapshot of the study’s main findings:

hey vote ­ but not always. Compared with Americans who regularly cast ballots, they are less engaged in politics. They are more likely to be bored with the political process and admit they often do not know enough about candidates to cast ballots. But they are crucial to Republican and Democratic fortunes in the Nov. 7 midterm elections.

They are the intermittent voters: Americans who are registered to vote but do not always make it to the polls. They differ significantly from those who vote regularly. For one thing, they’re less likely to be married than are regular voters. Intermittent voters also are more mistrustful of people compared with those who vote regularly. They also are less angry with government, though no less dissatisfied with President Bush than are regular voters, according to a survey conducted Sept. 21-Oct. 4 among 1,804 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in collaboration with the Associated Press.

The survey also finds large differences between Americans who are not registered to vote or vote only rarely, and intermittent or regular voters. The two groups at the bottom of the voting participation scale are much less likely than regular or intermittent voters to believe that voting will make much of a difference. They also are less likely to agree with the statement: “I feel guilty when I don’t get a chance to vote.”

To understand who votes and who doesn’t, survey respondents were divided into four groups based on their voting history, attitudes about voting, and interest in the current campaign. Together, these groups span the breadth of political participation, from regular voters to democracy’s bystanders(1):

Regular voters. These are adults who are currently registered to vote. Nearly all regular voters cast ballots in the 2004 presidential election; most say they “always” vote and that they are certain to vote in the upcoming congressional election. Together, they constitute roughly a third (35%) of the adult population.

Intermittent voters. All intermittent voters say they are registered to vote, but fewer acknowledge always voting. They report less certainty of voting in the upcoming election and less interest in the campaign compared with regular voters. Intermittent voters make up 20% of the population.

Registered but rare voters. About a quarter of Americans say they are registered to vote, but acknowledge that they rarely make it to the polls (23%). Fully three-quarters (76%) say they sometimes feel they don’t know enough about the candidates to vote.

Unregistered adults. These are Americans who say they are not registered to vote, or indicate their registration may have lapsed. They comprise 22% of the population.

Interesting stuff, and important research for those who are intereted in efforts to increase voter participation.