Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Un-United States? Not Hardly

If you follow political blogs and listen to talk radio you are inundated constantly with the mantra that the country is divided. The Republican Party is known as Repugs. The Democratic Party has been called the Demonrats and worse. If you immerse yourself in the shouting match on the internet you must be convinced that civil war is only moments away.

Well folks, you would be both right and wrong.

The fact is that by measurable standards a large percentage of the American people simply don't care about politics any further than it affects them personally. I call this the WIIFM effect.

This table shows the voter turnout for the elections from 2000 to 2008. It is a subset of the voter turnout stats going back to 1960. Take a look at the numbers. Look at the years where voter turnout exceeded 50% and correlate that to the major events of the time.

Year Voting-age
Voter turnout Turnout of voting-age
population (percent)
2008* 231,229,580 NA 132,618,580* 56.8%
2006 220,600,000 135,889,600 80,588,000 37.1%
2004 221,256,931 174,800,000 122,294,978 55.3
2002 215,473,000 150,990,598 79,830,119 37.0
2000 205,815,000 156,421,311 105,586,274 51.3

But, remember that tables and stats can be misleading. Take 2006 for example. Of the 220,600,000 potential voters only 135,889,600 or 61% actually registered. The turnout was 80,588,000 or 36.5%. I don't know how the source came up with 37.1% but that illistrates that the measuring process can be corrupted as well. To continue, of the 135,889,600 registered voters, 80,588,000 actually got out and voted. That is 59% of the registered voters.

So, in '06, when the pendulum began to swing back to the left only 61% of the eligible population bothered to register to vote. And of that 61% only 59% of them actually voted. If that were congress they would not have been able to break a filibuster.

It boils down to sixty-three and a half percent of the voting age population simply didn't care enough to vote. And of the ones who at least cared enough to register, almost half of them decided on election day that it just wasn't worth it.

Voters need an incentive to get out there. In '08 there was a higher percentage of turnout. Using the candidates promises and the debates, the WIIFM principle pointed to bigger government and less personal initiative. It also pointed to a population grown weary of an ongoing war. And, just to historically accurate it validated the electoral trend of removing the war-leaders when the public decided they'd had enough.

So, don't despair. On any given day it's just the extremists on both sides being loud and everyone else simply doesn't care.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to get involved and make a difference. If not you, then who?

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