Why Didn’t They Vote?

By Penelope Mayer, Charlotte Dems contributing writer, June 20, 2021

Currently our Precinct Captains and volunteers are engaged in a deep canvassing phone campaign with the 9000 registered Democrats who did not vote in 2020. We hope to learn why some of our Charlotte County Democrats sat out this very critical election, but in the meantime, we can learn much from a survey commissioned by NPR and the Medill School of Journalism about the reasons non-voters are disengaged and disaffected.

Nationwide, more Americans voted in 2020 than in any other presidential election in 120 years. About 67% of eligible voters cast ballots this year, but that still means a third did not.  That amounts to about 80 million people who stayed home.

Seventy percent of the non-voters were not registered to vote in 2020, but only 29% of the 2020 nonvoters surveyed said that not being registered was one of their main reasons for skipping the election.

According to the survey, non-voters:

  • do not believe politics can make a difference in their lives.
  • have little trust in government
  • feel the rich and powerful have the advantage
  • feel most issues discussed in Washington have little to do with them
  • are not civically engaged
  • do not volunteer
  • believe that voting has very little to do with the way the country is run
  • believe the mainstream media is more interested in making money than the truth
  • believe the elections are not fair and free

While 45% of the surveyed non-voters believe elections are not free and fair, difficulty of voting doesn’t appear to be a major reason why they don’t vote. Three-quarters said they think it’s at least somewhat easy to vote.

The survey also revealed that there are strong socioeconomic correlations between voting and not voting.

Non-voters tend:

  • to make less money
  • to have lower levels of education
  • be less likely to own their home
  • are less likely to be married
  • more likely to be young
  • more likely to be Latino (only 52% of Latinos said they were registered to vote compared to 80% of White respondents and 78% of Black Americans.)

The disturbing takeaway from this survey was that there doesn’t seem to be much that would motivate these non-voters.  Asked what they think would most encourage people to vote, the top answer was none or nothing (35%). That was followed by cleaning up government (27%), having more candidates to choose from (20%), being automatically registered to vote (16%) and making Election Day a national holiday (15%).

This is a problem in a representative democracy where the ability to be truly representative depends on the active participation of all its citizens and underscores the work we have ahead of us leading up to 2022.

Less than 25% of non-voters said campaigns had reached out to them, offered information, or asked them to vote. We must do better.  We must add more registered Democrats to our tent and inspire the ones already under it to cast their ballots in every election. There’s no more essential work or responsibility in a democracy. Please join us in the effort.  Volunteer to help!




 Image Credits: Scott Eisen/Getty Images