Generally, when a pollster calls they’re eager to get a “likely voter” on the phone, but a Suffolk University poll release last week that turned the concept of voter polling on its head by conducting a poll of “unlikely voters.“
“This is a poll of the ‘Other America,’” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said. “There is a huge block of Americans who are never asked their opinions because they are immediately screened out once they’ve indicated that they are not registered or unlikely to vote. It is the first poll taken this year that exclusively looks at this segment of the population.”
In 2008 voter turnout to elect the first African-American president was high with lines of voters waiting hours to cast their ballots. But even in 2008 a total 80 million people failed to register to vote or simply failed to get to the polls that day. The number of people staying home this year is expected to be even higher.
So Why Didn’t They Vote?
The poll found that 58 percent doesn‘t believe politics makes a difference in their lives, even though 64 percent said they keep abreast of what’s going on in government most or some of the time. But it’s unclear how much they were truly paying attention because 61 percent could not correctly name the current vice president, and “59 percent said the reason they don’t pay attention is that nothing ever gets done – that it’s a bunch of empty promises.”
Twenty-six percent said they were too busy or didn’t have time to vote, 12 percent felt their vote didn’t matter, and 13 percent said it‘s their right not to vote. Less than a third said the two major parties do a good job representing Americans’ political views and a whopping 53 percent said a third party or multiple parties are necessary.
About 31 percent of those surveyed were not registered to vote and 17 percent were registered unaffiliated. About 18 percent of those surveyed did vote in 2004 and of those 52 percent voted for George Bush, while 26 percent voted for John Kerry.
What would it take to get them to vote this November? Nineteen percent said “nothing,” 22 percent said they didn’t know, 11 percent said they will now consider voting, and another 11 percent said different candidates.
What Does This Mean?
According to the survey, if non-voters decided to head to the polls in November they would choose to re-elect Barack Obama.
Obama was the choice of 43 percent of unregistered Americans, while 23 percent said they would choose a third-party candidate over Republican Mitt Romney who received 14 percent of the vote in the survey. Obama also pulled 43 percent of registered voters who said they are less likely to cast a ballot, while 20 percent chose Romney, and 18 percent would prefer a third-party candidate, according to the poll.
Of those who said they would support Obama, 85 percent would be more likely to head to the polls if they knew their vote could help swing a close national election for him. About 70 percent of those supporting Romney said they would head to the polls if it meant they could help swing the election in his favor.
The nationwide survey of 800 adults was conducted July 30- Aug. 8 and has a 3.47 percent margin of error. About 57 percent of all the non-voters surveyed were white and nearly half or 47 percent live in households making under $60,000 a year.