A new study has analyzed the nearly 92 million nonvoters in the U.S. -- about half of eligible voters -- and now it's up to candidates and their teams to figure out how to motivate them to exercise that fundamental right.
The Knight Foundation released the results Wednesday of “The 100 Million Project,” the largest survey ever of chronic nonvoters in an attempt to figure out why they rarely or never cast ballots, reported Politico Magazine.
"In the broadest terms, the study found the average chronic nonvoter is a married, nonreligious white woman between 56 and 73 who works full time but makes less than $50,000 a year," the magazine reported. "She is most likely to identify as a moderate, lean toward the Democratic Party, get her news from television and to have a very unfavorable impression of both political parties and President Donald Trump. She has a 77 percent chance of being registered to vote and says she doesn’t because she doesn’t like the candidates but claims to be certain she will vote in November."
Drilling down a bit deeper, both would-be Democrats and would-be Republicans fail to show up, and an even larger group feels alienated from a political system they view as corrupt or irrelevant.
Those varying factions are so large that if even portions of one can be activated they can swing an election, which may be why Donald Trump busted through the so-called "blue wall" in the upper Midwest and Barack Obama flipped states like North Carolina and Indiana in 2008.
These blocs of nonvoters may well decide this year's election, as well, if one of the campaigns can find a strategy to motivate them.
“On the political left, there’s this feeling that if all nonvoters voted it would benefit them, but the majority of the academic literature that has tried to assess this has found this isn’t the case,” said Eitan Hersh, a political science professor at Tufts University who helped oversee the Knight survey. “But what if you increased it by 20 or 30 percent, then who would vote? Who is closest on the cusp of voting? That’s a very different theoretical electorate than either the status quo or universal turnout.”
Nonvoters as a whole largely reflect the political leanings of the broader electorate, but they tend to lean more partisan -- in either direction -- in many battleground states.
For example, nonvoters prefer Trump rather strongly in Arizona, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, while nonvoters lean Democratic in Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.
The Knight study backs previous research showing that nonvoters aren't some monolithic bloc who are completely disconnected from politics, but the winning formula for candidates is accurately identifying those smaller cohorts and crafting a message that can appeal to even just one of those demographics.
“There are these plugged-in groups [of nonvoters] who by and large resemble voters more than they do this much more disconnected group,” said Evette Alexander, Knight’s director of learning and impact strategy. “The likelihood of mobilizing people drops off quite sharply when you move between them.”