The Least Financially Secure Americans Are Barely Being Heard At The Ballot Box

The Least Financially Secure Americans Are Barely Being Heard At The Ballot Box

America's most economically vulnerable are also the least likely to vote, according to a new Pew Research report.

The analysis divides Americans into five groups based on their level of "financial security," a term used to measure both how much difficulty people have with paying bills and affording things like housing and medical care, and how much access they have to resources like checking or savings accounts, a credit card or retirement savings.

Financial security turns out to be a pretty good indicator of how active someone is in politics. Just over half of the least financially secure Americans were registered to vote last year, compared with 94 percent of the most secure. Less than a third of the two least-secure groups -- who together make up 41 percent of the U.S. adult population -- were considered likely to vote. They were also less likely to contact elected officials, or even to know which party was in power.

This is a disproportionate problem for Democrats, who "left far more potential votes 'on the table'" in 2014, according to the report. While support for Democrats in 2014 hovered around 40 percent among each group, the rest of the financially secure were far more likely to support a Republican, while the least secure were more likely not to have a preference for either party. And while the least secure favored Democrats over the GOP by a 25-point margin, comparatively few of them made it to the ballot box.

"Even among the individuals in this group who say they would prefer a Democratic candidate for a congressional election, most of them are not going to show up to a vote," Scott Keeter, Pew's director of survey research told Bloomberg News. "Democrats have turnout challenges."

Beyond party voting, the discrepancy in who turns out to vote also means that the Americans who are struggling most are least likely to have their voices heard on issues like the need for a social safety net, where their views are dramatically different from the most well-off. The least financially secure Americans are 26 points more likely than the most secure to say government should do more for the needy, while the most secure are 25 points more likely to say that "poor people today have it easy."

The Pew Research panel was conducted Sept. 9 through Oct. 3, reaching 3,154 people online and by mail. Panelists were recruited from a larger telephone survey conducted earlier in 2014.

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