‘Nonvoters 2020: Counted Out’ examines reasons 80 million Americans opted out of presidential election

Northwestern Now

EVANSTON, Ill. — The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and National Public Radio have partnered to release a national survey of nonvoters Tuesday (Dec. 15) that, despite record high turnout for the November presidential election, found that most nonvoters did not cite impediments to going to the polls but instead chose not to vote due to widespread feelings of political alienation and apathy.

As the percentage of nonvoters narrowed to the smallest proportion in 120 years, the 80 million Americans who didn’t vote in 2020 had deep-seated reasons for not casting ballots.

The survey of 1,103 nonvoters and 740 voters conducted by Ipsos from Nov. 4 to Nov. 13 found that those who didn’t vote in the 2020 election are set in their belief that voting just doesn’t matter. Four out of five people polled last month said they made the choice not to vote. Only 18% said something prevented them from casting a ballot in 2020.

The majority of nonvoters — 70% — were not registered to vote in 2020, but only 29% of this year’s nonvoters surveyed said that not being registered was their main reason for skipping the election. The others cited reasons for abstaining such as a lack of interest in the election, the feeling that their vote wouldn’t make a difference or a general dislike for the candidates instead of any problems with the voting process itself.


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