November 11, 2008
Bill Shapard

Of Great Variance

What separates voters from non-voters?

OKLAHOMA CITY � Three quarters of respondents who are not registered to vote in the state claim they feel a duty to always vote; these non-registered Oklahomans are more interested in national politics; and avid voters are 50% more likely to say that voting is worth any costs.

SoonerPoll.com, a public opinion research firm in Oklahoma City, conducted the telephone poll, �Who Votes in Oklahoma�, of 664 registered voters and non-registered Oklahoma residents April 24 - May 15. The poll has a margin of error of 3.8% and results were weighted by MSA, political label and sex.

I have a say!
When respondents were asked to rate agreement or disagreement on a seven-point scale in response to the statement, �People like me do have a say about what the government does.�, registered voters were much more likely to agree than those not registered.

In fact, 86.6% of registered respondents voiced agreement versus only 53.1% of those not registered. This means that registered voters are 33 points more likely to believe that they have an influence on government conduct.


Complete toplines and crosstab

Benefits v. Costs
Registered voters were also almost 50% more likely to agree that the benefits of voting outweigh the costs. The benefits refer to intangible rewards such as duty personal fulfillment or democratic participation and the costs refer to determents such as the financial cost to purchase a photo id or the intangible cost of time and effort.

This perception proved to be the second greatest difference between these two groups of respondents, right behind that of �having a say�.

Next, registered respondents were broken down into specific groups ranging in voter likelihood based on actual voting records. This analysis showed that a person willing to give something up in return for something they value � voting and democracy � is more likely to register to vote and is more likely to be an avid and/or frequent voter.

The Influences of a Personal Network
When respondents were asked how they would describe their support network of family and friends, non-registered respondents were twice as likely to respond on some level of agree to the statement, �I have a strong, supportive network of friends and/or family.� and three times more likely to strongly agree than registered respondents.

Secondary research often correlates a consistent network with political participation. In this case, however, the reverse provides more truth.

Non-registered Voters More Likely to be Interested in National Politics. A larger proportion of non-registered respondents said they were more interested in both local and national politics than registered respondents.

These non-registered respondents, however, were three times more likely to say they are interested in national politics than registered respondents and twice as likely to say they are interested in local politics than registered respondents.

Duty, Duty, Duty
One of the most expected differences between those who vote and those who do not would be a sense of civil duty. Surprisingly, when respondents were asked for some idea of agreement or disagreement to the statement, �It is my duty as a citizen to always vote.�, registered voters were approximately 27% more likely to say that they agreed with this sense of duty.

76.2% of non-registered respondents explained that they do feel it is their duty to vote, but they are not registered none the less. And although more registered respondents (97.3%) feel this sense of duty, this is still an ironically large group and similar perception.

It is important, when analyzing these results, to keep in mind that the respondents who are not registered are not currently registered and some of this group may have been registered in the past. On the same token, however, these are still people who cannot be described as likely voters.

Bill Shapard
About the Author

Bill Shapard

Bill is the founder of SoonerPoll.com and ShapardResearch, a full service market research firm based in Oklahoma City. Bill began his career in polling after working on a major campaign in Oklahoma from 1996 until founding SoonerPoll in 2004.