During the 2016 presidential election nearly 100 million people, almost half of the eligible voting population in America, did not cast a vote.

Voting Sign

In 2020, Knight Foundation released a study of over

10,234

chronic non-voters in America, across the country and in key battleground states.

The study sought to understand who they are, what they care about and surface insights about why they don’t vote.

But you probably have some ideas of your own.

Which of the following do you believe is more true of non-voters than active voters?

  • Non-voters are more concerned that special interest groups influence elections
  • Non-voters have less trust in the elections system
  • Non-voters are far more likely to vote Democrat in 2020
  • Non-voters consume less news and information
  • Non-voters do not believe that the government works to improve their lives
  • Non-voters have lower pride in the United States

Non-voters do not necessarily fall into a certain gender, race, class, education level, or even political affiliation, and there are many reasons why they don’t vote.

What would you say is the main reason for not voting?

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49th Out of 50 and Still Running

It can take a lot to convince habitual non-voters to vote as a House of Delegates candidate in West Virginia found out.

Compared to active voters, non-voters are more likely to be less educated, lower income, non-white and unmarried.

Level of Education

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Voters
Non-voters

Level of Education

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Voters
Non-voters

Although there is not one way to define a non-voter, our study identified six types of non-voters.

SwingStates

Although non-voters are fairly split across party lines nationally, there are clearer preferences for President in 2020 across swing states.

Explore the Swing States

What party would you vote for in 2020?

JavaScript chart by amChartsDemocratic Party24.8%President Trump33.7%Someone else21.8%Don't know19.8%SeriesChart100%Chart created using amCharts library

In addition to consuming less news and information on political issues, non-voters are also less certain that decisions made in Washington personally impact them.

To what degree do you think the decisions made by the president and other elected officials in Washington impact your life?

JavaScript chart by amChartsSeriesChart

To what degree do you think the decisions made by the president and other elected officials in Washington impact your life?

JavaScript chart by amChartsSeriesChart100%Chart created using amCharts library

Organizing in 2016's Lowest Voting Congressional District

Non-voters also want candidates they can believe in. By going door-to-door with issue-based education, one community in Arizona increased voter registration among non-English-speaking eligible voters and elected their district’s first Latino candidate.

One of the clearest findings of the study is that non-voters feel (and are) under-informed on political issues.

Compared with active voters, non-voter media diets involve less traditional news and more entertainment, and these individuals were less likely to grow up in a family that discussed current events together.

Choose the statement that best describes you.

"I actively seek out news and information"
"I mostly bump into news and information as I do other things or hear about it from others"

Voters

73%
27%

Non-Voters

56%
44%

When national elections are coming up, do you typically feel like you have enough information about candidates and issues to decide who to vote for?

Voters

80% Yes
15% No

Non-Voters

59% Yes
29% No

However, there’s one group even less interested and informed than habitual non-voters — the emerging electorate.

Eligible voters between

18-24

This group's behavior and trends will shape how the overall electorate moves in the coming years.

39%

of 18-24 year olds say they primarily access social media

9%

of 18-24 year olds say they primarily access news

The emerging electorate are more dissatisfied with President Trump than current voters and non-voters. A significant portion would rather vote for the Democratic Party’s nominee (38%) than re-elect President Trump (22%)

Are we losing a generation of voters?

The 100 Million Project began as a way to illuminate the challenges that need to be addressed if disengaged voters are to be enticed to the polls.

Though they make up a large portion of our population, these Americans receive little-to-no attention in national political conversations, and remain a mystery to many institutions. As organizations seek to reach and motivate the disengaged electorate, information from this project should help inform their work.

The 100 Million Project helps dispel outdated assumptions about non-voters. These are our fellow citizens, and they come from every walk of life. But there are some factors that unite them, which we examine in this report. By bringing to life this diverse group and their views on politics, the study acts as a clarion call to energize a new generation of engaged citizens — and ensure all citizens have a voice in our democracy.

Read our follow up article on Medium.

Not planning on voting?

Tell us why.

Explore

See how non-voters can impact swing states.

Watch

Travel to Arizona, West Virginia and New York to learn why some citizens who can vote, don’t.

Learn

Are you a modern moderate, a traditional conservative or a unattached apolitical?