By international standards, the number of Americans who trouble themselves to vote is low, far trailing nations as diverse as Sweden (whose 85.8 percent participation in their most recent election was the highest by a populace from whom voting is not required), South Korea and New Zealand.
If voter turnout for the 2016 presidential election stays consistent with a trend dating to 1972, nearly half the nation’s eligible voters will sit the election out.
Given the US popular vote displays a near 50-50 split, this might suggest US presidents are chosen by the”undecided.” Though some one-third of Americans describe themselves as “independent” voters, close to half vote consistently for one party or another, the actual number of swing voters having been projected, prior the Obama/Romney runoff, as 3-5 percent. That this number mattered in that election was reflected by both campaigns’ investment of some $2 billion to gain their votes.
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In the 2012 election, Obama’s popular vote exceeded Romney’s by 4,856,000. Fewer than 5 million more people voted for Obama’s reelection than to put Romney in office. In 2008, 9,700,000 were then number who preferred Obama to McCain.
Of the 235,258,000 adults of voting age in 2012, 24.1 percent — just over 106 million, of 45.1 percent of Americans of voting age – did not vote.
Of that number, a significant fraction was unable to vote due criminal records or lack of legal identification. Call that fraction, with no basis of data whatsoever, 20 percent. Of the 84.8 million remaining, presume the liberal/conservative split to reflect that of the nation as a whole.
A presidential candidate able to mobilize “their” half of the typically non-voting population might bring as many as 42.4 million new voters to their side.
Back now to numbers with some basis in polls at least, and to the estimate that some 3-5 percent were truly undecided in 2012. Double the highest estimate, one arrives at the notion that 12.6 million people at most decided that election.
In 2016, more than three times that many voters might come out to support the first candidate in history to speak to their particular desires and fears.
In August 2015, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke praised Donald Trump on two of his three weekly radio broadcasts. White nationalists and nativists in general have found a champion in Trump, as reported at length by Evan Osnos.
A certain number of “red” voters may reject Trump, but few are likely to cast votes for a long-reviled Hillary Clinton, let alone a self-proclaimed socialist. Were Bernie Sanders to win the nomination, a certain number of “blue” voters would likewise likely sit out 2016. But those who live and breathe Trump’s messages will not.
How many in number are they? How many electoral votes will their numbers carry?
If those not so inclined are not drawn into the polling places in November, we may find out.