Does Poor Voter Turnout Equal Satisfaction with Government?

Voter turnout within political elections is a highly valued statistic for politicians, political pundits, and the average observers.

Voter turnout is a predictor of election results and how elections will play out. It is estimated, recorded, studied, and used as an input in political algorithms by campaigns to determine Get Out The Vote totals, and thus can then be used in polling estimates.

The fascination with voter turnout is not a recent phenomenon, as political scientists have been using voter turnout totals for various uses for as long as there have been democratic elections within North America.

Voter turnout in recent elections has been abysmal. Politicians, media, and corporations often struggle to grasp why voter turnout is so low.

In the recent US Presidential election, voter turnout results were significantly higher than previous US Presidential elections.

This begs the question, why then, did the voter turnout percentage suddenly increase, as voter apathy seemingly plummeted?

One answer may come from the political scientists of the 1950s and 1960s in the United States. During this time period, is wide widely believed that voter apathy signified public approval of the government in power. Simply put, if the a person approved of the government’s job, there was no reason to change the government, thus no reason to head to the polls. Likewise, if a person did not approve of the ruling power, they would be more likely to head to the polls and cast their vote in attempt to change the government.

In the 2016 US Presidential election, voter turnout was higher as previously mentioned. This may be the cause of the theory of apathy equalling satisfaction. Voters on the center right to right were motivated to vote to get rid of the Obama administration, which in their view was horrible. Likewise, voters on the left and center-left may have been motivated to get out and vote because of their fears of Donald Trump in the White House.

This is cause of dissatisfaction on both sides, dissatisfaction with Obama, as well as the dissatisfaction with Trump, although not yet in office, which shows just how important the last election was.  

While people complain about politics and leaders all the time, most disagreements are too minor for many people to be bothered to head to the polls. Unless the approval rating for a governing power is extremely low, and they feel there is significant reason to change government, or prevent the change of, most people are generally satisfied with government on a whole. This leads to a population apathetic in their civil duties in voting.

It’s clear that a strong link between approval ratings and voting turnout.


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