Turning nonvoters into voters?

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Many researchers have long believed that the reasons for not voting are more psychological than logistical, that lack of interest, lack of confidence a vote will pay off or active dislike of the political process or candidates was more of a disincentive than having to register, find the correct polling place and get there on Election Day.

But some experts now are adjusting their beliefs as microtargeting and the political emphasis on a few battleground states is changing the way candidates and campaigns interact with citizens.

“I’m skeptical that we can change the psychology of nonvoters because the attitudes they hold that make them less likely to vote are tied to their social, economic and educational circumstances,” said Scott Keeter, director of polling for the Pew Research Center. “But they can be mobilizied if sufficient effort is made.”

Keeter, former Obama campaign senior official Andrew Bleeker and other experts says nonvoters need to be directly asked to vote by the candidates or campaign workers.

“In the old days, political machines did it, but those days are gone,” Keeter said. “They also reached out to the lower income, less educated” potential voters.

Bleeker said voting is like donating to campaigns – you’re more likely to do it if you’re asked in person. A November 2012 survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs found that only 24 percent of nonvoters were contacted by a candidate or campaign worker compared with 51 percent of voters.

Does it matter that four in 10 Americans sat out the 2012 election?

“Absolutely,” Keeter said. “Nonvoters tend to be more liberal than voters on many issues and preferred (President Barak) Obama over (Mitt) Romney by a much wider margin than did voters,” which could have given the president a landslide victory and larger mandate.

In addition, a larger voter turnout would likely breed more tolerance for a diversity of perspectives in the political system because nonvoters tend to be independents. In addition, it would mean politicians couldn’t target extreme elements of their bases to ensure victory.

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