Our old friend and master of statistics Nate Silver has an interesting column that points out an interesting fact. Most polls try to survey only likely voters, since only people who vote determine elections.
But a recent survey did the opposite, surveying people who were either not registered to vote, or who said they were not likely to vote. The results were — to say the least — interesting:
Among these adults, 43 percent said they preferred Mr. Obama, while 17 percent backed Mr. Romney. Since quite a few Americans fit into this category – about 4 in 10 adults will not vote in November – it is easy to see how Mr. Obama could have a double-digit lead when they are added back into the total …. But those adults will not help Mr. Obama any if they do not show up on Nov. 6.
So the excuse that some people have that their vote doesn’t matter isn’t true. It only doesn’t matter because they don’t vote.
Another excuse that people give for not voting is that they don’t like either of the candidates from the two major political parties. In the survey “about 20 percent of unlikely voters said they would prefer to vote for a third-party candidate for president – much larger than in polls of likely voters.”
Fledgling political parties like the Libertarians and the Greens thus face something of a Catch-22. Many adults who might otherwise be inclined to support them do not bother to vote, possibly because they do not regard the parties as viable and think voting would be a waste of time. But without doing a little better at the ballot booth, it is hard for these minor parties to demonstrate their viability and gain any momentum.
So by not voting for third parties, non-voters are virtually guaranteeing that those parties will never gain any traction. Ironically, it is a self-fulfilling prophesy.