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Video transcript

what we're going to talk about in this video is voter turnout which is a way of thinking about well how many of the people who could vote actually do vote if it's often expressed as a number as a percentage where you have the number who vote number who vote over the number of eligible voters number who could vote who could vote and this percentage varies pretty dramatically from region to region amongst various demographic groups we'll talk about that in a few minutes and especially if you think about even sometimes year to year and from country to country there are some countries that have mandatory voting where this number is a lot higher other countries for what various reasons this number could be a lot lower and one thing for you to think about if you're already a voting age you might have already thought this or if you're not voting yet you will soon what would drive you to vote or what would drive you to not vote stay home or somehow keep you from engaging in this political process well one thing that you'll often hear folks say is does my vote matter does my vote matter and the typical response that you would get if you say that is well if everyone thought that well then Demark democracy really won't function so yes your vote does matter so that's the high level way of thinking about it but everyone thinks about this to a certain degree and this idea of thinking about whether your vote matters a fancy way of describing that is you're thinking about your political efficacy political efficacy fancy political science term but it's really just this idea of what's my belief about how politically effective I can be when I vote if I am in a battleground state say a Florida where even presidential elections have turned on a few hundreds of votes in Florida you might say hey I have high political efficacy my vote does matter there but some folks who live in a state that might be strongly leaning towards one party or another during a presidential election say a California that tends to go to a Democrat or say a Texas that tends to go to a Republican regardless of which party you are you say well if I'm just one more Republican vote in Texas does my vote matter if I'm one more Democratic vote in California does my vote matter I would encourage you in both cases your vote does matter wouldn't believe that then our democracy does not function now a related idea to political efficacy is this idea to well just how engaged are people so I'll call that engagement and this might be well how much do they care so beyond does my vote matter there's a notion of do I care there are certain elections where you might really like one candidate or it might really dislike another candidate you might think hey there's some big issues on the table that really affect my life so I might be more engaged or frankly the various candidates or the various political parties or community organizations might just be better at engaging the population now third dimension beyond whether people believe their vote matters or how engaged they are in the issues or the candidates is the structure around voting itself what state laws are there around voting and how easy or how hard is it to vote so for example if there's a big window of time where people can vote and if the polling places are really accessible especially if they're available on say a holiday then it might be easier for people to actually go to vote but on the other hand if they aren't that accessible or if it's on a day where a lot of folks might need to work or certain demographics might need to work well they might be less likely to turn out you also have laws around absentee ballots or people being able to vote ahead of time the easier it is logistically to vote the more accessible it is you're gonna get a higher turnout now political scientists don't just study voter turnout to understand the past they look at the past to try to make predictions about the future at the next congressional election the next presidential election and they're trying to figure out which way it might go you can't just survey people alone and say well are you gonna vote for this candidate or that candidate because you also have to think about how likely are they to vote and that likelihood could be based on various factors it might be based on their age it might be based on their race it might be based on their education level and to appreciate that let's start taking a look at some data this chart right over here shows voter turnout by sex and age in the 2008 US presidential election where the blue bars are males and the red bars are females and then you could see that in the different age groups and so pause this video it's just fun to look at these things what what takeaways are there here well you can see that if you if you look at all of the eligible voters total 18 years and over that women had a higher voter turnout than men sixty point four percent of eligible women voted only 55 point seven percent of men think about why that might be what beliefs might women have around put their own political efficacy relative to men maybe they are more engaged maybe there's issues on the table that they care more about and then if you look by age group that trends tends to be true it's most pronounced at the younger age groups but then things get more and more equal as we go to the older age groups the only place where that trend breaks down is in 75 years and over and then you also have the general trend that older folks are more likely to vote once again why is that here's another interesting chart this is voter turnout by educational attainment for the same u.s. presidential election 2008 so you can see that on average across all education levels you have this voter turnout around fifty eight point two percent but the more educated people get the more they're likely or at least in that election the more likely they were to actually vote the more educated people are they might feel more engaged they might have a better belief that their vote is effective so they have a belief around political efficacy this is voter turnout in the 2008 US presidential election by race and ethnicity and so here you see that in that election white voters had sixty four point eight percent turnout black voters sixty point eight percent and you could see Asian and Hispanic voters were much much lower what does this say about political engagement and what does it say about their beliefs around political efficacy and to see trends over time I'm going to go to the site of fair vote.org which is a really great non partisan nonprofit that is trying to think about how do we get a better democracy so this diagram right over here shows voter turnout rates from 1916 to 2016 and there's two different lines here the top one is in presidential elections this is the 2016 presidential election and this bottom line right over here is in midterm elections so this is where there isn't someone running for president why do you think that there's such a big gap here that pretty consistently you have a much higher voter turnout in this depending on what year you look at but say in 2016 you have a 60% voter turnout while in the midterm election of 2014 you didn't even break 40% you had a little under 36 percent voter turnout why do you think you have this big gap well you could probably turn to these ideas of political efficacy and engagement one thing that people talk about around congressional seats is that there tends to not be a lot of turnover around it we've in other videos we've talked about how the districts might be shaped to benefit incumbents that the entire process might be benefiting incumbents so people might say hey I have a very low political efficacy here most Congress people tend to stay in office so maybe that's why they don't really go out to vote and there might be an engagement thing going on that on presidential years where also Congress people are up for re-election or up for election the reason why people go out to vote is presidential elections are these really big dramatic things they take over the press they take over everyone's attention now another interesting thing to think about is the trend why say in presidential elections actually in presidential and midterm elections do you have such high engagement in the 1960s relative to say the 1980s and 1990s where things got pretty low one argument could be that the 1960s was a time of very high political engagement you had the Vietnam War going on you had the civil rights movement now if we scroll down on fair vote right over here we can see voter turnout in the 2060 elections by state and the deeper the purple here the higher the turnout and so what patterns do hat do you see here and I'll give you a hint think about which states are battleground states the ones that could flip either way in or the ones that could have flipped either way in the 2016 election well you could see the deeper purple are in states like Florida or in states like Ohio or Wisconsin and it's indi in Michigan these indeed are battleground states so you could imagine folks in those states believed that they had higher political efficacy now in the 2014 elections you don't see it as dramatic this is a midterm election year so people are thinking a lot less about the electoral college and presidential elections so it isn't as all-or-nothing as they are in the electoral college in the presidential elections and so you don't see it as pronounced but if you go back to 2012 which was a presidential election year you see the same pattern again that the battleground states are a deeper color so I will leave you there you should vote that's just my public service message but it's interesting to think about why in general voter turnout might change