BISMARCK — Americans who don't vote are less engaged with news and have less faith in the electoral system than those who vote regularly, a new study concludes.
Nearly 100 million Americans who were eligible to vote did not cast a ballot in 2016 for reasons ranging from dislike of the candidates to lack of interest in the outcome, according to the report, which was commissioned by the Knight Foundation, a Miami nonprofit, and performed by consulting firm Bendixen and Amandi.
Researchers asked 12,000 chronic nonvoters, mostly from swing states like Minnesota, why they choose not to vote. About 38% of respondents said they were "not very confident" or "not confident at all" that the results of elections represent the will of the people. Many said they believe the electoral system is "rigged," while others said the existence of the Electoral College and the unimportance of the popular vote in presidential elections contributed to their lack of trust in the institution.
"I just don’t know who to trust anymore — that’s why I gave up on voting," said one unnamed male non-voter in Minneapolis.
Many non-voters also said they didn't have enough information on the candidates to cast a vote and were far less likely to seek out news than those who vote regularly. Only about a quarter of non-voters said they follow political news very closely, compared to 40% for voters.
"Things in our lives are so distracting. I think I really should vote, but it takes a lot of homework," said a female non-voter from Minneapolis.
Others told researchers they don't vote simply because of a fundamental lack of interest in politics. Nearly 30% of unregistered eligible voters said they weren't registered because they don't care about politics or the outcomes of elections.
The study also found that if all non-voters were to cast a ballot in the presidential election this November, they would likely split the vote between the two parties. About 33% of respondents said they would vote for the Democratic nominee, while 30% said they would vote to re-elect President Donald Trump. Another 18% said they would vote for a third-party candidate if they had to choose.
A little more than half of non-voter respondents said they have a negative perception of Trump, but 40% said they view him favorably. However, non-voters were less likely to have partisan affiliations or opinions on controversial issues like abortion and immigration than voters.
Researchers also surveyed member of "Generation Z," and found that Americans aged 18 to 24 are least likely to vote in 2020. Nearly 40% said they don't have enough information to pick a candidate.