Embargoed for release until Sunday, November 5
Date: November 2, 2000
Contact: Cheryl D. Peck
UIS professor: The vanishing voter is largely a myth
SPRINGFIELD - It's perhaps the best-known "fact" in American politics. Americans are increasingly dismayed with politics and are demonstrating their disgust by staying away from the polls. Crusaders such as John McCain and Jesse Ventura use the crisis to promote their personal agendas of campaign finance reform or third party politics.
In an op/ed piece that will appear in the Outlook Magazine of Sunday's Washington Post, Michael McDonald, UIS professor of political studies, and co-author Sam Popkin dispel the myth of the vanishing voter. "The perception of declining participation is an artifact of the method of calculating the turnout rate," said McDonald. "Official government reports calculate the turnout rate by dividing the number of people who voted by what is known as the "voting age population" - everyone age 18 and older residing in the United States."
McDonald and Popkin note that the voting age population is not the eligible population. The percentage of ineligible non-citizens has steadily increased from 2 percent of the voting-age population in 1972 to 7 percent in 1996. The percentage of ineligible felons has increased from 0.6 percent in 1985 to 1.4 percent in 1996.
The ineligible population is increasing, not non-voting. Turnout rates among the eligible population have fluctuated around an average of 55.8 percent since 1972. "This surprising finding will force many to reassess the health of America's democracy," McDonald states.
To arrange an interview with McDonald, call 217/206-6574 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.