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Large majority of nonvoters plan to cast ballots in November, new report finds

Both pro- and anti-Trump attitudes were motivating factors to vote in 2020, with 19 percent supporting the president and 22 percent against.
Image: Politics vote
Poll workers attach a sign as they set up a voting station at Laguna Beach City Hall in Laguna Beach in Orange County, California, before the polls open on Nov. 6, 2018.Robyn Beck / AFP - Getty Images file

Nearly three-quarters of habitual nonvoters plan to cast ballots in the November election, according to a first-of-its-kind poll on this bloc released Wednesday by the Knight Foundation.

The report, titled "The 100 Million Project: The Untold Story of American Nonvoters," surveyed 12,000 persistent nonvoters nationwide and aimed to understand the characteristics of nonvoters, why they are disengaged from the political process and the effect this group could have on the coming election if they turn out at the polls.

The study defined chronic nonvoters as those who aren't registered or had voted only once in the last six national elections.

More than 100 million eligible American voters don't vote, according to the study, which noted that in the 2016 election, 41.3 percent of qualified voters didn't cast ballots. Hillary Clinton won 3 million more voters than Donald Trump but lost the Electoral College.

The study found that a slight majority of nonvoters (53 percent) are women. Forty percent of nonvoters are millennials (compared to 30 percent of voters). Nonvoters are also predominantly white (65 percent). They're also more likely to be single and to make less money than active voters and are less likely to have graduated from college.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they weren't registered to vote because of a basic lack of interest in politics, and 13 percent said they felt their votes didn't matter. Even so, 71 percent of habitual nonvoters plan to cast ballots in November, according to the study. Both pro- and anti-Trump attitudes were motivating factors to vote, with 19 percent supporting the president and 22 percent against. Thirty-one percent said civic responsibility was a factor for voting this year.

These nonvoters also tend not to participate in the political process because they are less likely to actively seek out news and don't feel they have enough information about candidates and issues to make a decision on Election Day, the study found. Survey respondents also cited feeling "depressed, discouraged or distracted" when consuming news and "intentionally" avoiding the news.

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The survey found that if the nonvoters were to vote this year, they would be more or less evenly divided, with 33 percent supporting Democrats and 30 percent supporting Republicans. Eighteen percent said they would vote for third-party candidates. In comparison, 46 percent of consistent voters went for the Democratic nominee versus 37 percent for Trump. The study also found that nonvoters are more liberal on issues like health care but skew conservative on abortion and immigration.

The study zeroed in on nonvoters in 10 battleground states are crucial to securing Electoral College votes: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In all swing states except Pennsylvania, immigration was the top issue for nonvoters, followed closely by jobs, the economy and health care. In Pennsylvania, jobs and the economy were the top issues, followed by immigration and health care.

Trump is the favorite among nonvoters in Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and New Hampshire. The Democratic nominee would be favored by nonvoters in Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. Trump had a 40 percent approval rating among nonvoters, compared with 51 percent who disapproved of his performance.

The study also focused on the emerging electorate — Gen Z voters. They are also the least likely to vote of any age group, are less interested in politics than voters and nonvoters alike and are less likely to view more Americans' voting as a good thing, according to the study. For this year, 38 percent said they don't have enough information to choose a candidate, but 41 percent are more likely to vote for the Democratic nominee versus 19 percent for Trump.

The Knight Foundation surveyed 4,002 national nonvoters with an error estimate of plus or minus 1.55 percentage points. Among the 8,015 swing-state nonvoters surveyed, the margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, and among the 1,002 national active voters surveyed the margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. All the completed interviews were among adults ages 25 and above. The national young adult sample consisted of 1,035 respondents nationwide ages 18 to 25, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. For full results and methodology, click here.