A quarter of Americans who didn’t vote last year say they opted out because they didn’t like the candidates or campaign issues, double the percentage who gave the same reason in 2012.
About 13 percent of non-voters named that as a reason for not voting in 2012, according to U.S. Census data on turnout released this month. Twenty-five percent say it’s why they didn’t vote in 2016, making it by far the most commonly cited rationale.
Fifteen percent of non-voters said they didn’t vote last year because they were “not interested,” while 14 percent said they were “too busy” or had a “conflicting schedule,” and 12 percent cited an “illness or disability.”
Both President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received historically low favorability ratings during the 2016 campaign. Voters viewed Clinton as untrustworthy and corrupt, and Trump as racist and inexperienced. Their negative traits didn’t lower overall turnout, as it was about the same as it has been in the past, but it did cause many non-voters to say their main concern was not liking the candidates.
Every demographic group tracked by the Census data saw an increase in people saying they didn’t vote because they didn’t like the candidates or the campaign issues. The largest increases in this category were among African Americans, Hispanic non-voters and Asian Americans.
The category that saw the biggest negative change from 2012 to 2016 was people who said they were “too busy” or had “conflicting schedules,” with 19 percent saying this affected them in 2012 and only 14 percent in 2016. This was also especially true of ethnic minorities and naturalized citizens. African-American non-voters citing this reason decreased by 10 points, Asian Americans by 8, and Hispanics by 7.
Dissatisfaction with candidates or campaign issues has been increasing since 2000, when the Census first asked about reasons for not voting with their current wording. However, the change in 2016 is the largest jump so far.