Women’s Voices. Women Vote is committed to addressing the underrepresentation of groups that historically fail to fully participate in our democracy. This first major study of 2010 highlights major problems, but also opportunities to impact participation.
WVWV is focused on the engagement of unmarried women, younger voters, and people of color. These voters collectively make up what they call the Rising American Electorate and account for a majority of the voting-age population in this country. Because they do not vote at the same levels as other voters, their voices are not always heard by policy-makers.
This study, commissioned by Women’s Voices. Women Vote, is part of a year-long effort that will track the engagement of these voters. It reflects data from an oversample of a Democracy Corps survey taken between January 7 and 12, 2010. It includes a total universe of 1,481 2008 voters and a total of 843 voters from the Rising American Electorate. The margin of error is +/-2.5 for the total sample and +/-3.4 for the Rising American Electorate. The youth oversample in this survey was conducted exclusively using cell phones.
The most important finding: popular assumptions about dismal turnout among these voters are wrong. It is not inevitable, and it is not tied primarily to the economy. It can change with the right programs and due attention.
Some other key findings include:
· As others in the participation community have been warning, turnout among these groups is at risk; this comes after record turnout in the 2008 election.
· It is a mistake to assume that this is all about the economy and disappointment with the slow pace of recovery. Those in the Rising American Electorate least likely to vote are the most optimistic about economic turnaround. Moreover, regression analysis suggests little, if any, predictive value in economic perceptions on enthusiasm for voting.
· This is important because it suggests that turnout is not captive to economic performance. The programs that worked to increase turnout in 2008 and 2006 can still increase turnout among these voters in 2010.
· Democrats face another problem, too; declining levels of support, particularly among youth and unmarried women. The economy likely plays a more significant role in vote preference than in turnout.
· What is key for both parties is getting the economic narrative right. This means speaking to this issue in their terms and focusing on tangible relief efforts they can see and touch, like unemployment benefits and health care reform. But it also means speaking to their hope and desire for change, which has not died since the 2008 election cycle. If anything, these voters want more change, not less.
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