NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Avoiding The Ballot Box

February 25, 1999

By and large, Americans don't vote. That is leading some observers to question whether we can any longer call ourselves a democracy.

  • In the last election, only 36 percent of voters went to the polls -- meaning that winning candidates might assume office with the backing of only slightly more than 18 percent of their constituents.
  • Even before that, in 1997, the Swedish-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance reported that voter participation rates in the U.S. were the lowest of any advanced democracy and lower than most fledgling democracies.
  • In voter turnout, the U.S. ranked 139 out of 163 countries.
  • The Committee for the Study of the American Electorate hypothesizes that Americans' sense of civic responsibility is dying.

That group points out that large segments of the electorate don't feel at home in either party. Moreover, a majority of the young are growing up in homes where parents don't vote. They attend schools which don't emphasize civics or citizenship.

The emphasis on multiculturalism and assaults on our history further rend the national fabric -- leaving people less and less aware of a civic culture.

Source: Paul Craig Roberts, "No-Shows Vaporizing Democracy," Washington Times, February 24, 1999.


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