Why don't poor people vote in the United States?

  • According to this article wealthy Americans' vote turnout is significantly higher than that of lower income ones:

    Socio-economic status: Wealthy Americans vote at much higher rates than those of lower socio-economic status. During the 2008 presidential election, only 41% of eligible voters making less than $15,000 a year voted, compared to 78% of those making $150,000 a year or more. Studies have shown that this difference in turnout affects public policy: politicians are more likely to respond to the desires of their wealthy constituents than of their poorer constituents, in part because more of their wealthy constituents vote.

    This is somewhat counter-intuitive, as one should expect people with lower incomes to vote against the current administration. E.g. In France's latest elections, in the first round (source):

    "The polls last week ago showed that around 24% of people didn't want to vote, and the week before it was 30%.

    "So people have decided to vote at the last minute, young people and low-paid workers who are angry about unemployment and wanted to vote against the incumbent. Traditionally the older people and middle class vote anyway."

    Question: Why don't poor people vote in the United States?

    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.

    Is this specific to the US? I think the poor everywhere vote to a lesser extent.

    It's hard to understand just how this data is collected. While my date of birth is collected when I registered to vote, my income was not a question on the application. And since my initial registration, my income has significantly increased over time. So how does the state know in which income bracket I belong to???

    Another way to look at this isn't from an income level, but from the age level. An 18 year old tends to make less than a 25 year old which tends to make less than a 40 year old which tends to make less than a 50 year old, etc....

    Actually, studies have shown that politicians only respond to their donors, who are disproportionately very rich, not the people who vote for them as opposed to the people who stay home. Voting is just a way to legitimize the decisions made between donors and politicians. That s why poor people do not vote as much, none of the options at the ballot box represent them. https://represent.us/action/no-the-problem/

    "It doesn't matter who you vote for, the government always gets in".

    Be careful what you wish for. In the US the poor vote for the Democratic party which is usually associated with educated and progressive individuals. But in a country like the UK it's often the opposite with the poorest voting for UKIP and Brexit. You might not like the outcome of 100% of the population coming out to the ballot.

    @JonathanReez Regardless of what result one might like, 100% voter turnout is a theoretical goal of any democracy. Only then the will of _all_ people is followed/accounted for. And if it is UJKIP and Brexit, so be it… That's the way democracy works. See this question e.g..

  • SleepingGod

    SleepingGod Correct answer

    4 years ago

    They are several reasons at play as to why poor people don't vote.


    Voter ID laws and registering to vote

    The Government Accountability Office found in this report, that in most state it costs between $5 - $60 to obtain a vote ID, alternate ID like a passport or driving license also cost money to obtain, and people who don't travel or don't drive may not have needed either before. This may not seem like a huge amount of money but when you're on the breadline every dollar counts.

    Also another factor is that poorer people are more likely to move home than wealthier people, and that moving home can jeopardize voter eligibility as you have another layer of red tape and paperwork before you can get to the polling station, an MIT study estimated that 1.2 million votes were lost in 2012 due to registration problems alone.


    Elections are held on working days

    A lot of poor people are paid by the hour, and if the election is being held on a working day (like in America) you simply can't afford to take the day off. In the 2014 US mid-term elections, a report commissioned by the Pew Research Centre found that 35% of people who didn't vote did so because of scheduling conflicts with work/school. Countries where voting is held on a week-end or public holiday like Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, and Italy typically have higher voter turnouts.

    A sub-category of this is long lines: in 2016, people sometimes had to wait for hours to cast their ballot. For someone who is losing money for every minute they spend in a line to cast their ballot, having to spend several hours is unappealing at best.


    Education, education and education (and apathy)

    Poor people don't have the time to read thousands of pages of news/policies and they don't spend their luncheon reading the Economist. As your article says, policies tend to be tailored towards wealthier constituents, so poorer voters may have difficulty understanding some of the more complex or technical terms used in the political discourse. Another article which claims this is here; poor people don't feel represented so they don't vote. A very blatant example of this was the 2016 Presidential Election where both the major candidates of political parties (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump) were multi-millionaires/billionaires who had extremely good educations (Yale/Wharton School of Business); these education institutions are often inaccessible to the poor. In fact, almost every single president of the US has at least been some form of millionaire.

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    Regarding the second point (elections are held on work days): Data from the *US* would be interesting. For over a decade, Oregon has held elections by mail. Are there statistics that show that this has led to increased turnaround among low-income voters? Likewise, the state of California makes it easy for voters to become permanent by-mail voters (this is actively encouraged in Santa Clara County, where I live; in the last election the mail-in ballot even came with a postage-paid return envelope). Are there statistics that show that this has lead to increased turnout among low-income voters?

    I think another important part of this answer should be the fact that it’s much more difficult to vote with less resources in some areas of the country. There have been a number of documented places which have reduced the number of polling locations or even eliminated them in cities. This results in huge lines and a requirement to commit a large amount of time simply to vote.

    In California at least employers are required to give employees like 2 hours to vote. I think it's paid. Though some people may not be aware of this or otherwise feel like they would be punished or effectively punished (missed opportunities while gone, say) anyway.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM