On Tuesday, November 8, Americans will vote in an election that will determine which party controls the House of Representatives and the Senate for the next two years, and will also fill many state-level legislative and executive positions.
If history is a guide, it is likely that a relatively small fraction of American adults eligible to cast a ballot will actually do so, perhaps less than half. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in August found that only 36% of registered voters said they had “thought a lot” about the upcoming election.
The share of Americans who will vote is likely to be older and whiter than the population at large. Data from Pew found that 50% of registered voters age 65 or older have given the election a lot of thought, compared to just 20% of 18- to 29-year-olds.
The percentage of white registered voters who said they gave the election a lot of thought was 40%, compared to 30% of Hispanic voters, 27% of black voters, and 17% of Asian voters.
Income and Education
Other key factors associated with engagement in the upcoming election include education and income levels.
According to Pew data, 40% of individuals with an advanced college degree had the highest engagement in the upcoming election.
Interestingly, while only 34% of college graduates with no advanced degree reported high engagement, those with some college but no degree reported the same level of engagement as those with a postgraduate degree, at 40%. Those who did not graduate high school or whose highest level of education was a high school diploma had the lowest engagement at 32%.
In general, wealthy Americans, on average, vote more than the non-wealthy. US Census data indicates that 85% of households with incomes above $150,000 voted in 2020, while only 72% of households with incomes between $50,000 and $74,999 voted, and only 50% of households with incomes between $15,000 and $19,99. Voted.
Economy a major issue
While there have been many headline-grabbing issues in US news reports over the past year, the state of the economy is seen as the most important factor that most voters will consider in November. Asked how important it is to them, 77% of people polled by Pew rated it as very important.
With inflation running high, over 8% year-on-year, and recession threats, it’s no wonder voters are focused on the issue.
That news could be bad for the Democratic Party, which currently holds the White House and both houses of Congress. In midterm elections, the incumbent president’s party almost always loses seats in Congress. This year, Republicans are hopeful that, with margins already slim, this dynamic will help them gain control of one or both chambers.
However, while the turnout trends may hold true for the general elections in 2022, the margins are likely to change. Although still likely to turn out in lower numbers than their older counterparts, turnout among young voters in November was higher than Roe vs. June in June. There may be anger over the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Wade, an earlier decision that created federal protections guaranteeing abortion rights. .
“Anger is a good dynamic,” Lisa Bryant, associate professor of political science at California State University, Fresno, told VOA. “It sounds counterintuitive, but people come out when they’re angry.”
The issue of abortion can also increase participation among women, he said.
“The Democratic Party, and especially women, who make up a large portion of the Democratic Party, are outraged by Roe’s decision,” Bryant said. “I think it will motivate a lot of people to come out this year.”
Voters motivated by the abortion ruling may, to some extent, offset the gap in participation between the youngest and oldest American voters, she said.
“Young women are registering in record numbers and saying they want to come out in record numbers,” Bryant said. “So we may see that gap close a little bit this year.”
Jan Leily, a professor of political science at American University’s School of Public Affairs, told VOA that there are other reasons to question whether the conventional wisdom about midterm voting will be necessary in 2022.
Pointing to the Covid-19 pandemic, economic disruptions and uncertainty, controversial Supreme Court decisions and the ongoing investigation into former President Donald Trump, Lailey said it would be foolish to assume that past patterns of behavior will necessarily remain in 2022.
“It’s not that it’s the new normal, but maybe old processes have changed,” she said. “Maybe we’re still in an adjustment period.”
In particular, she said, it could affect people’s propensity to vote in ways that didn’t apply in previous elections.
“People have cross-pressures,” she said. “And how they put all those pieces together, I think, changes the rational decision about whether or not you vote, especially for people who haven’t voted before.”
A historic partnership
Federal elections in the US are held every two years, and in each one all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are on the ballot, as are roughly one-third of the 100 seats in the Senate. Because US presidents serve four-year terms, every other election is considered a “presidential” election, while two years later, at the midpoint of the current president’s term, are called “midterms”.
Historically, presidential elections have attracted significantly higher voter participation than midterms. According to the United States Elections Project, Michael P., professor of political science at the University of Florida. Maintained by McDonald, turnout in US presidential elections ranges between 49% and 65% of eligible voters. 100 years.
For midterms, turnout has been significantly lower, ranging between 33% and 49% over the past 100 years.
However, in the last two federal elections, turnout was significantly higher than in recent years. In the 2018 midterm elections, participation reached 50%, the highest figure since 1914. In the 2020 presidential election, 66.7% of the eligible population voted, the highest percentage since 1900.
Political scientists say recent polling levels have been fueled by the fact that Trump, a polarizing political figure, is engaging on both sides of the political aisle. In addition, measures taken to facilitate voting during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 may also increase turnout.
Comparing voter participation across countries can be difficult because there are different ways of measuring it. Some consider the percentage of people of voting age. Others consider only the percentage of eligible voters who vote (excluding, for example, resident aliens). Still others measure the percentage of people registered to vote who actually show up to vote.
By most measures, however, participation in the US lags behind many of its peer countries, particularly those, such as Belgium and Australia, where laws that mandate voting drive participation rates to around 80%.
For example, data collected by Pew Research shows that among all Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, only Slovenia, Latvia, Chile, Luxembourg, and Switzerland rank the U.S. has a lower voter participation rate than