Non-voters are the biggest wild card in U.S. electoral politics, a cohort of some 92 million adults who are eligible to vote, but seldom do so. They’re eclectic, with distinctive blocks that reliably support Democrats and Republicans – but don’t show up to cast their ballots — and an even larger one that is completely alienated from a political milieu they find bewildering, corrupt, irrelevant or some combination thereof. These blocks are so large that when a campaign is able to motivate even a portion of one, they can swing an election, which is what allowed Donald Trump to reduce the “Blue Wall” of Upper Great Lakes states to rubble in 2016 and Barack Obama to flip North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Indiana in 2008. What these blocks do in November will likely decide the 2020 election and the survival of the republic as we’ve come to know it.
But who are they? Why don’t they vote? What can motivate them to change their mind?
Lat week, the Knight Foundation released the results of “The 100 Million Project,” the largest and survey of chronic non-voters in history. More than 12,000 were polled across the country, with special emphasis on ten battleground states, followed by in-depth focus group conversations with thousands of them across the country. You won’t want to miss what they learned.
I had advanced access to the report and its authors and travelled to Philadelphia earlier this month to report this in-depth POLITICO Magazine story on this poorly understood portion of the U.S. citizenry. Input from Chris Arnade, Ibram Kendi, Meredith Rolfe, Eitan Hersh, Yanna Krupnik, the More in Common “Hidden Tribes” team, and many others. Hope you enjoy.
I last reported from Pennsylvania for POLITICO in 2016, on a very different topic, the redevelopment of the massive Philadelphia Navy Yard.