A new study from the Knight Foundation sought to answer why, and found that non-voters are less likely to trust the electoral process, less likely to engage with the news and less likely to have strong partisan opinions on political issues.
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A new study from the Knight Foundation sought to answer why, and found that non-voters are less likely to trust the electoral process, less likely to engage with the news and less likely to have strong partisan opinions on political issues.

This fall, millions of Georgians will make their choices for president, U.S. House and Senate and their state lawmakers – and millions more will stay home.

A new study from the Knight Foundation sought to answer why, and found that non-voters are less likely to trust the electoral process, less likely to engage with the news and less likely to have strong partisan opinions on political issues. The average non-voter is also more likely to have lower income and education levels than people who do vote. 

The nonpartisan group surveyed more than 12,000 people nationwide, with an extra focus on 10 battleground states for the 2020 election, including Georgia. "Non-voters" in this study were defined as adults over 25 who were eligible but not registered to vote or those who are registered only voted once in the last six national elections.

In Georgia, nearly 3 million of the state's 6.9 million registered voters did not vote in the 2018 gubernatorial election that was decided by about 55,000 votes.

On average, non-voters in Georgia are less interested in politics than people who vote, non-voters say immigration, the economy and race relations are top issues and they are not as engaged with orgainzed groups in their community. Of the 804 Georgians surveyed, 75% said they are registered to vote.

According to the survey, the top reasons Georgians gave for not voting was a dislike of the candidates (16%), followed by not knowing the candidates running (10%) and feeling like they were too busy (9%) or their vote won't count (9%). 

Eitan Hersch, an associate professor at Tufts University and an adviser on the Knight study, said a big factor behind not voting is a voter engagement issue. 

"The main reason people don't vote has a lot more to do with their own social and psychological disconnect from community, from organizations where they're in networks with people who care about participation," he said. "There's a much bigger engagement problem than is a logistical problem."

Voting rights and electoral issues roared to the forefront in Georgia during the 2018 gubernatorial election and has remained in the headlines with the state's implementation of a new voting system, record-high voter registration numbers and a likely increase in turnout for three major elections this year.

Political campaigns may not spend as much time courting people who don't vote, but this study gives a roadmap to reaching them. Both political parties stand to gain from this large bloc. If non-voters participated in the 2020 election nationwide, the two major parties would see new votes in roughly the same proportions.

But in Georgia, an increasingly-competitive demographically-shifting state, 34% of the non-voters surveyed said they would vote for the Democratic presidential nominee, while 29% said they would vote for President Donald Trump.