On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Americans will head to the polls to vote in an election that will determine which party will control the House and Senate for the next two years, as well as many state-level legislative and executive positions.
If history is any guide, it is likely that a relatively small proportion of eligible American adults will actually do so, perhaps less than half. An August poll by the Pew Research Center found that only 36% of registered voters said they had “thought a lot” about the upcoming election.
The proportion of Americans who will vote is likely to be older and whiter than the general population. Pew data found that 50% of registered voters age 65 and older have given the election a lot of thought, compared to just 20% of those ages 18 to 29.
The percentage of white registered voters who said they had thought a lot about the election was 40%, compared with 30% of Hispanics, 27% of black voters and 17% of Asians.
Income and education
Other key factors associated with turnout in upcoming elections include education level and income.
According to Pew, turnout in the upcoming election was highest among those with a college degree, at 40%.
Interestingly, while only 34% of college graduates without a college degree reported high engagement, those with some college but no degree reported the same level of engagement at 40% as those with graduate degrees. Participation was lowest among those who did not complete high school or whose highest level of education was a high school diploma, at 32%.
Typically, wealthier Americans are, on average, more likely to vote than nonwealthy. U.S. Census data shows that while 85% of people in households with incomes over $150,000 voted in 2020, only 72% of people in households with incomes between $50,000 and $74,999 voted, and 15,000- Only 50% of households with incomes between $19,999 and $19,999 voted.
The economy is a major issue
While there have been many headline-grabbing issues in US news reports in the past year, the state of the economy is seen as the most important factor most voters will consider in November. When asked how important it is to them, 77% of people surveyed by Pew rated it as very important.
With inflation high, at more than 8% a year, and the threat of a looming recession, it’s perhaps not surprising that voters are focused on the issue.
That news could bode ill 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 hoping that this dynamic will help them take control of one or both chambers, even by narrow margins.
However, while typical turnout trends may hold true in 2022, the margin is likely to change. While still likely to turn out in fewer numbers than their older counterparts, turnout among young voters in November could be boosted by the Supreme Court’s ruling in June that overturned Roe v. Wade, which earlier established federal protections guaranteeing abortion rights. : .
“Anger is a good mobilizer,” Lisa Bryant, an associate professor of political science at California State University in Fresno, told VOA. “It sounds counterintuitive, but people go out when they’re angry.”
The abortion issue can also increase women’s participation, she said.
“The Democratic Party, and especially women, who make up a larger portion of the Democratic Party, are outraged by Roe’s decision,” Bryant said. “I think that will keep a lot of people participating this year.”
He said voters motivated by the abortion decision could somewhat offset the turnout gap between the youngest and oldest American voters.
“Young women are signing up in record numbers and saying they intend to participate in record numbers,” Bryant said. “So we can see that gap closed a little bit this year.”
Jan Laley, a political science professor at American University’s School of Public Affairs, told VOA there are other reasons to doubt whether conventional wisdom about midterm turnout will necessarily hold in 2022.
Pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic disruption and uncertainty, controversial Supreme Court decisions and the ongoing investigation into former President Donald Trump, Leyley said it is unwise to assume that past patterns of behavior will necessarily persist in 2022.
“It’s not like it’s the new normal, but maybe the old processes have changed,” he said. “Maybe we’re still in the adjustment period.”
In particular, he said, it could affect people’s propensity to vote in ways that were not used in previous elections.
“People have cross-pressures,” he said. “And how they put all those pieces together, I think, changes the rational decision to vote or not to vote, especially for people who haven’t voted before.”
Federal elections in the United States 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 those that occur two years later, halfway through the incumbent’s term, are called “midterms.”
Historically, presidential elections have attracted significantly higher voter turnout than midterm elections. According to the United States Elections Project, run by University of Florida political science professor Michael P. 100 years.
Turnout in midterm elections has been remarkably low, hovering between 33-49% for most of the last 100 years.
However, turnout in the last two federal elections was significantly higher than in recent years. Turnout in the 2018 midterm elections reached 50%, the highest since 1914. 66.7% of eligible voters voted in the 2020 presidential election, the highest percentage since 1900.
Political analysts say the recent turnout has been boosted by the fact that Trump, a polarizing politician, has drawn engagement on both sides of the political aisle. Additionally, measures taken in 2020 to facilitate voting during the COVID-19 pandemic may also increase turnout.
Comparing voter turnout across countries can be difficult because there are different ways of measuring it. Some consider the percentage of people of voting age who voted. Others consider only the percentage of eligible voters who vote (excluding resident aliens, for example). Others measure the percentage of people who registered to vote who actually showed up to vote.
However, by many measures, turnout in the U.S. lags behind many of its peer countries, especially those like Belgium and Australia, where laws making voting compulsory put turnout rates as high as 80%.
Data collected by Pew Research, for example, showed that of all the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, only Slovenia, Latvia, Chile, Luxembourg and Switzerland had lower voter participation rates than the United States.