Even high-stakes election didn't move voters to polls

-- The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La., - March 24

Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2001

Are Americans turned off by politics? Or are they complacent in an era of relative prosperity and peace and don't feel the need to exercise the most basic of rights, voting? Those are questions that are vexing reformers who are greatly concerned with the declining rate of voting in the United States.

During the last few decades, the decline has been steady and disheartening, and even the very close presidential election of 2000 caused only the smallest uptick in voting.

Only 51 percent of the registered voters cast ballots last fall, according to Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate and the leading analyst of the subject. ... Gans noted that only 12 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds cast ballots in the election.

It is amazing, he said, that despite the close election and stakes that included control of the Congress, nearly half the electorate did not show up. ...

He said cultural changes, such as countless hours wasted watching television and parents who don't vote themselves, offer little hope of turning around voter apathy in the next generation. Suburbanites are in a rat race of commuting, and public life seems increasingly less urgent to the time-pressed American. ...

Gans said ... most of those who don't vote are angry and dissatisfied with the political system.

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