Citizens have questioned the validity of governing bodies throughout history. In America, this is especially true. In a large country of immigrants, many question if their government truly represents their people, even if it means undermining the democracy their forefathers built. When examining such a democracy, understanding voter turnout is important in determining who is really determining elections. The United States has consistently had one of the lowest voter turnout rates of not only western civilization, but of all developed nations, since the mid-1960s, so I question if voter suppression adversely aides one party. I hypothesize that if voter turnout increased then the Democratic party would receive a higher share of votes, due to the fact it has been proven Republican voters are more likely to vote despite poor conditions, such as weather (Gomez, Hansford and Krause 2007).
I believe this is caused by the disproportionate voting-rates of certain demographic and social groups. Specifically, “minorities, youth and those who move frequently,” (Alvarez, Ansolabehere and Wilson 2002) are the least likely groups to vote – groups often associated with the base of the Democratic Party. Related to my original thoughts, I hypothesize that if voter registration processes were improved, the Democratic party would receive a higher share of votes. These hypotheses are not only testable, but important because political parties in a democracy are supposed to be dependent on the people, but research has shown that currently their “dependence seems to run in the direction of those with disposable wealth” (Cox 2009), a troubling sign with the resemblance of an oligarchy.
I would use an experiment to approach my initial hypothesis because non-voter trends are less researched than voting trends. I would create several sample populations during a national election cycle – some proportionate to the average national voting population (voters), others proportionate to the eligible voting population (all adults). Then I would have them cast ballots for political candidates and compare the groups to each other and past voting trends. I believe this is the most accurate way to prove my hypothesis because it directly shows how voting habits change when sampling the actual population versus the voting population, which is more educated, wealthier, and less diverse.
Some may see the set-up of this experiment and not recognize the vast difference in population types. Non-voters are less partisan (Hansford and Gomez 2010), but they are also demographically dissimilar. From 1900 onward in America, the median age has risen from 22.9- to 35-years-old; the population has shifted to a female-majority; and has become more ethnically and racially diverse (Hobbs & Stoops 2002). During that same time voter turnout has peaked and declined – with over 63 percent of the eligible population voting participating in the 1960 presidential election, but less than 57 percent of the eligible population voting in the presidential elections post-1970, on average, according to FairVote.org – a non-partisan and non-profit organization aimed at keeping democracies functional. Voting trends for mid-term elections have suffered the same decline, with 47.3 percent voting in 1970, but less than 40 percent of the eligible population voting in non-presidential elections since 1970, on average, according to FairVote.
America has also been trending toward urbanization, with the percent of Americans living in metropolitan areas almost tripling – from 28 to 80 percent – between 1910 and 2000 (Hobbs & Stoops). America has also become much more educated, with the number of Americans graduating high school more than tripling and the number of Americans attaining a college degree increasing from 5 to 33 percent (Bauman & Ryan 2016). And even more strongly tied to political affiliation is religion. Since 2007, Americans are 8 percent less likely to identify as Christians and 6 percent more likely to have no religious affiliation (Lipka 2015). These demographic and social changes would seem to bode well for the Democratic party, as the Pew Research has shown most registered voters who are college graduates, millennial, minorities, not religiously affiliated or are women lean Democratic (Pew Research Center 2016). However, the Pew Research Center’s data shows the Democratic party’s voter-coalition has outpaced American demographic change, while the Republican party has moved in the opposite direction. While this does not disprove or prove my current hypotheses, it means they may ring true in the future, when American demographics catch up with the Democratic party, as they has been trending towards.
By projecting the political-lean of demographic groups across the entire American population’s and comparing it to actual voting numbers, one can see a clear difference. If the voting population aimed to be a sample of the actual population – it currently does not – the statistical difference would be significant. America, as a democracy, is supposed to represent its citizens as accurately as possible. The previously mentioned analytical trends display a unique change in America growing more racially diverse and economically divided, while the voting population remains educated, rich and mostly Caucasian. And while those trends do not signify the political leanings of the American population, the groups being left out of the vote heavily lean in one political direction. My experiment aims to uncover the differences in voting trends among those various voting and non-voting populations.
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