The Truth about American Political Participation

stringsSo often many Americans tend to chalk up “the way things are” to someone pulling the strings behind the scenes. Of course we are usually naturally suspicious of power and probably watch too many movies with conspiracy theories for our own good.

But the truth is that no single person or even a few individuals really “run” things, (despite the delusions of some presidents or judges). But at the “macro” level of American politics, it is true that a fairly small group of Americans (relative to the total population) do collectively “run” things.

Here are some American political participation numbers from Pew and the Census that give you an idea of just how many (or few) people are actually pulling which strings:

  • Percent of eligible Americans who typically register to vote: 63%
  • Percent who usually vote in presidential years: 58% (of course only a little over half of them vote for the “winner”)
  • Percent who usually vote in non-presidential years: 41% (meaning about 21% vote for the winner)
  • Cast ballots in typical local elections: less than 15% (meaning about 8% vote for the winner)
  • Vote in party primaries for major elections: less than 15% (that’s both parties added together…meaning about 5% vote for the winner of either primary!)
  • Sign petitions: 32%
  • Lobby or communicate with elected officials: 30%
  • Attend political meetings of any kind: 24%
  • Contribute to candidates: 18%
  • Join groups to try to influence public policy: 15%
  • Attend political rallies or speeches: 12%
  • Send letters to the editor: 10%
  • Work for political campaigns or parties: 8%
  • Attend organized protests: 4%
  • Are part of the official structure of the two major political parties: as low as .002%

A decent percentage of Americans (about 2/3’s) do at least one of these things on a regular basis. 34% did one or two of these activities within the past year; 16% did three or four, while 13% did five or more.

These are the people who are really running things.

They have the most influence over the system in general. They register, they vote, they organize. They are the political party machinery, they pick the nominees that everyone else gets to choose from in November, they fund the campaigns, they work on the campaigns, they elect the politicians from the school board on up to the president, and they speak out to elected officials about public policy – and they are more likely to be heard when they do.

Their only qualification for “running things” is that they decided that they want to.

Are you one of them? Are your friends? Do you know any fellow conservatives that need to “decide” that they want to run things too?

Pass this along and tell them how.

About Drew McKissick

Political strategist & columnist helping conservatives impact things they care about | Former RNC member | Elvis fan (Find me @DrewMcKissick)