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For Immediate Release: Friday, October 15, 2004
Contact:  Saskia Mills or Kim Alexander – (530) 750-7650


Results available online at

Davis, CA – The California Voter Foundation (CVF) today released the results of a statewide survey on the attitudes of infrequent voters and citizens eligible to vote but not registered. The first-of-its-kind survey sheds new light on the incentives and barriers to voting, along with the sources of information that influence people when they do vote. 

With expectations for much higher than normal voter turnout in the November 2nd election, the survey results provide timely benefits as well, according to CVF President Kim Alexander.

“For election officials and others working to maximize voter participation, these survey results provide clear direction on the messages most likely to get infrequent voters to participate in the upcoming election, and on the messages that will motivate more nonvoters to register,” Alexander said, noting that there are 6.4 million Californians who are eligible but unregistered to vote.

The survey found that 28 percent of infrequent voters and 23 percent of those unregistered said they do not vote or do not register to vote because they are too busy.

“This tells us that many Californians may benefit from more information about the time-saving advantages of early voting and voting by absentee ballot,” Alexander said. “There are still a couple of days left to register to vote prior to the October 18 deadline and to request an absentee ballot.”  Voter registration forms are available in post offices, libraries and DMV offices.  Absentee ballot applications are included in sample ballots mailed to all registered voters by county election offices and must be returned by October 26.

Alexander said the survey’s findings might also benefit those campaigns trying to reach infrequent and new voters in advance of the November 2nd election.  The perception that politics are controlled by special interests is widely shared among two-thirds of the survey’s respondents, and represents a significant barrier to voter participation.  A feeling that candidates don’t really speak to them was cited as the second leading reason why infrequent voters and nonvoters do not vote. 

Still, 93 percent of infrequent voters agreed that voting is an important part of being a good citizen and 81 percent of nonvoters agreed it is an important way to voice their opinions on issues that affect their families and communities.

“Civic duty and self-expression provide strong incentives to get potential voters to the polls, despite pervasive cynicism about the influence of special interests,” said Alexander.

The survey found that family and friends influence how infrequent voters decide to vote as much as daily newspapers and TV news.  Among infrequent voters, 65 percent said conversations with their families and local newspapers were influential sources of information when it comes to making voting decisions.  Network TV news rated as influential among 64 percent, followed by cable TV news at 60 percent, and conversations with friends at 59 percent.  For more than half of the infrequent voters surveyed, phone calls and door-to-door contact by political campaigns are not influential sources of information when deciding how to vote. 

The survey also found that family upbringing plays a strong role in determining voting habits as adults.  51 percent of nonvoters surveyed said they grew up in families that did not often discuss political issues and candidates.

The survey found that nonvoters are disproportionately young, single, less educated and more likely to be of an ethnic minority than infrequent and frequent voters. 40 percent of nonvoters are under 30 years old, compared to 29 percent of infrequent voters and 14 percent of frequent voters. Infrequent voters are much more likely to be married than nonvoters, with 50 percent of infrequent voters married compared to only 34 percent of nonvoters. 76% of nonvoters have less than a college degree, compared to 61 percent of infrequent voters and 50 percent of frequent voters.  Among nonvoters, 54 percent are white or Caucasian compared to 60 percent of infrequent voters and 70 percent of frequent voters.

The survey was conducted between July 25 and September 22, 2004. It included 1,054 citizens who are eligible but not registered to vote, and 1,091 registered voters who voted in zero or one of the last four statewide elections.  The survey has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.  References to frequent voter survey results were obtained from other recent surveys.  The survey was conducted for CVF by David Binder Research, with support provided by The James Irvine Foundation.

Further analysis of the survey results and public policy recommendations based on the findings will be included in a forthcoming report.  A detailed summary of survey results, including charts and graphics, is available online.

The California Voter Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization advancing democracy in California and promoting the responsible use of technology to improve the democratic process. 


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This page was first published on October 4, 2004 | Last updated on January 27, 2006
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