Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Who Actually Votes?

Americans are even less likely to vote than it appears. That's what Pew Research Center discovered when it asked its American Trends Panel respondents whether they had voted in the 2014 midterm election and then attempted to match those who said they "definitely voted" with commercially available national voter files. Sixteen percent of respondents who said they "definitely voted" had no record of doing so. The demographic segments least likely to vote are also the ones most likely to say they voted when they did not...
  • Young adults: among 18-to 29-year-olds who say they "definitely voted" in the 2014 midterm election, fully 35 percent had no record of doing so. The figure was a smaller 17 percent among 30-to-49-year-olds, 15 percent among 50-to-64-year-olds, and just 7 percent among people aged 65 or older.
  • Hispanics: among Hispanics who say they "definitely voted" in the 2014 midterm election, a substantial 27 percent had no record of doing so. Among Blacks and non-Hispanic Whites, the figure was a smaller 15 percent. 
These findings suggest that voting levels measured by the Voting and Registration Supplement to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (CPS), fielded every two years, are overstated—particularly for young adults and Hispanics. The Census Bureau notes the discrepancy in its report Who Votes? Congressional Elections and the American Electorate: 1978-2014: "Voting rates from the sample surveys such as the CPS are higher than official results." But, says the bureau, "the CPS remains the most comprehensive data source available for examining the social and demographic composition of the electorate in federal elections."

In other words, the CPS is the best we've got. According to the CPS, 20 percent of 18-to-29-year-old citizens and 27 percent of Hispanic citizens reported voting in the 2014 midterm election. Pew's analysis suggests that actual voting rates for these two important segments of the electorate are in fact much lower.

Source: Pew Research Center, Many Americans Say They Voted, But Did They?

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