Will Non-Voters Vote?

Cory, Arnav, Sasa, and Matt

In the article “For Every 10 U.S. Adults, Six Vote and Four Don’t. What Separates Them?”, the authors,  Alicia Parlapiano and Adam Pearce, hypothesize that demographics can help predict whether someone will turn out to the polls or not. They focus on the correlation between the participation of eligible voters and age, income, education, and age for the 2012 election. In particular, the article states that “The richer, older and more educated you are, the more likely you are to vote.” However, it might not be the case in this election. The election between Clinton and Trump might cause previous non-voters to take to the polls or could deter others due to its irregular nature. With such an unpredicted election, how might these demographics alter in 2016?





Surprisingly, race can easily determine whether an individual will go out to vote. Voter data from the NY Times article displays the general trends between races and their voting habits. The results were astonishingly predictable. As we can see in the graphs, the 2012 election turnout displayed a voting pattern between all races. Black voters had the highest turnout regardless of education level, income, or sex. In all of those categories, whites came in second, and Hispanics and “others” trailed whites. Although Hispanics are not always ahead of “other” races, the Hispanic and the “other” categories tended to have similar voter turnout across gender and educational and income levels. This begs the question, “will the results be the same in 2016?”


The 2012 election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney was, for the most part, considered to be a traditional election. The increased spending on media propaganda and advertising was merely a result of the changing technological times, but the candidates still stuck to the status quo in terms of policies. The 2016 election, as we all know, is nothing but normal. The attacks by Trump on different racial groups, and the demographics of Trump’s supporters, could cause these patterns created in 2012 to be destroyed. The fact that Trump has explicitly called out Mexicans may cause a rise in Hispanic’s voter turnout across the board. Combine this with the recent shootings of innocent blacks, the high percentage of young people exposed to politics with Bernie’s movement, and the poor white man’s support of Trump, and we predict that the breakdown of voting by race will be completely altered. In an attempt to keep Trump out of office, we predict black and Hispanic voter turnout will increase; we also believe poor/lower middle class white voter turnout will increase, as a result of their support for Trump.


Voter turnout as it relates to age may be different this election. Typically, voter turnout is skewed towards the older population, “as people get older, they tend to own homes, pay more taxes and have less residential mobility, increasing their stakes in the political system.” So traditionally youth voter turnout gets left behind, as seen in the last election when the 18-29 age category was least represented at 19% of vote turnout. However, this election may define a shift in youth voter turnout following the Sanders campaign.


The Sanders campaign sensationalized politics attracting younger voters with a platform focused on civil rights and debt-free college education. Suddenly, the ‘skin in the game’ mindset is not solely attributed to the older generations. With Sanders sympathizing the plight of the average American college student, concern regarding the election amongst youth has risen considerably. Which is understandable- as college tuitions are becoming more expensive, college debt is rising too. Undergraduates are now going into the workforce owing thousands of dollars. Furthermore, standards for employment are becoming more demanding as the actual value of a college education is becoming less of an individual’s conclusion to education and more of a requirement to propel the further pursuit of a graduate degree.

Granted, Sanders is not in the race anymore however Clinton’s campaign has attempted to absorb his base by incorporating several of Sanders’ policies- especially those regarding public college education which may lead to an increase in the voter turnout rate surrounding youth. It would be safe to assume that turnout remains roughly the same in the older age categories as historical trends have remained steady for several years.


Socio-Economic Status

Socio-economic status is one of the most reliable indicators for propensity to turnout. As Parlapiano and Pierce point out, the higher your income the more likely you are to turnout. But how has income changed over the past 4 years and what can we expect in 2016?


While public opinion and rhetoric (especially Republican rhetoric) might suggest that the economy has been doing badly (I think Trump said real unemployment was at 40%), the US economy has slowly but surely been lifting itself out of recession. This has translated to real gains for voters. Of particular note is median income. Median income has risen from $54,525 to $56,516 (3.65%), marginally more than the inflation rate of 1.01%. This translates to a 2.64% net increase in median income. This means that voter turnout should rise even if it is by a marginal amount if Parlapiano and Pierce’s observations are to hold true.




While individual demographics might increase or decrease the overall voter turnout might not be a record depending on how the country reacts. The demographics might not be the only determining factor that causes voter turnout. While this election has received a lot of publicity, the economy is relatively well off compared to recent years. However, many citizens are strongly opposed to either candidate that might cause more citizens to flock to the polls. The negativity felt could infuriate and cause voters to care. This election is highly unpredictable due to its erratic nature, so we will have to wait for the results.










This is the main argument about income. I did not include education as I could not find any stats on education in the last four years in particular. Education is such that the trends seem to be more long term than a 4 year period


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