USA: Poll gives insight to U.S. election turnout.

Reuters English News Service

CHICAGO, March 12 (Reuters) – The 48 percent of U.S. voters who did not cast a ballot in the last presidential election stayed away for many reasons beyond a simple dislike of the choices, according to a poll released on Monday.

Of 1,053 nonvoters questioned about why they failed to take part in one of the closest presidential race in the country’s history, 24 percent said they weren’t even registered, 13 percent said they didn’t like the candidates, 8 percent said they had to work or were sick and 7 percent were traveling or out of town.

In addition, 5 per cent said they were not interested in politics and 4 percent said their vote would not make a difference, the survey from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism said.

Some of the other reasons given by the rest, in amounts of 4 percent or less, were that they had no way to get to the polls, were too busy or that emergency situations came up.

The poll, conducted in the month following last year’s contest in which President George W. Bush narrowly beat former vice president Al Gore, found that about a third of the nonvoters said they usually do vote, and 29 percent of them said they were relatively avid consumers of news on politics and public affairs.

“While infrastructure reforms are important, increasing voter turnout also is key,” said Ellen Shearer, co-director of the Medill News Service. “Our survey suggests we do so by first motivating the one of three eligible voters who say they vote before trying to reach the chronic nonvoters.”

The survey also covered 859 people who did vote in the presidential race. It found that 65 percent of them almost always vote when given the chance.

From both groups the survey found potential ways to increase turnout. These included allowing registration and voting on the same day, holding elections over three days, allowing all eligible voters to vote by mail, permitting people to vote over the Internet and holding elections on weekends.

Among the people in the poll who did vote, 37 percent said they did so as a civic duty, 17 percent because they had the ability to exercise the right, 14 percent because they wanted to have a voice in who was elected and 11 percent because of a personal like or dislike of a candidate.

The telephone survey had an error margin of plus or minus three points.

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