Does your vote matter? It's up for tomorrow's debaters to decide what it even means for a vote to matter in the first place, so I won't try to provide possible answers to this question in today's blog post. However, I can provide some hopefully interesting information on Americans’ faith in the political system and voter turnout rates, which perhaps say something about whether Americans thought their votes mattered in the past and whether they think their votes matter this year.
According to a 2019 poll by Pew Research, 63% of Americans have little or no confidence in the federal government, and 75% of Americans think that people’s trust in the government is shrinking. Additionally, while Democrats and Republicans generally trust different leaders and institutions, they can agree on one point: America’s elected officials do not inspire confidence.
Meanwhile, another poll from last year found that only 40% of Americans had confidence in the honesty of their elections, a lower figure than other Western democracies. For example, 74% of Germans and 66% of Canadians felt confident that their election results were honest. In terms of the elected branches of government themselves, 43% of Americans currently express at least a fair amount of confidence in the executive branch versus 33% for the legislative branch. Both of these numbers are much lower than that of the judicial branch, which 67% of Americans have at least a fair amount of confidence in. On a more optimistic note, Americans’ faith in Congress has actually increased from the Obama era---in 2015, Congress was polling at just 28% with the same question asked.
Comparatively, Americans tend to vote at lower rates than other Western democracies. Belgium and Australia have two of the highest voting rates, as they actually make showing up to the polling booth mandatory, though they are far from the only countries to outvote the US. In the mid-2010s, the US had the lowest voting rate among Anglophone Western democracies, with only 55.7% of Americans of voting-age casting a ballot in the 2016 presidential election. It is possible this is partially due to North American cultural norms---Canada only had 62% of people vote in 2015, lower than many European nations during this time period.
America’s election this year, however, is a much different ballgame from 2016. 69% of Americans say that they are more enthusiastic than usual to vote this year, compared to 50% of Americans who said the same thing in 2016. America is so committed to voting this year that two states, Texas and Hawaii, have already collected more early ballots than total presidential ballots in 2016.
Hopefully this post provides some useful context for tomorrow's debate. We hope you'll come share your thoughts with us this Monday at 7pm CST!
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