How Socioeconomic Status Affect Voter Turnout

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How Socioeconomic Status Affect Voter Turnout

How Socioeconomic Status Affect Voter Turnout and why


Voter turnout, the number of people turning up to exercise their democratic rights in an election is influenced by numbers of factors such as socioeconomic status of voters. The main factors of socioeconomic status affecting voter turnout include level of education, occupation status and income. It is important to note the socioeconomic status not only affect voter turnout but also voter registration. In developed democracies in the world such as in the United States elections, socioeconomic status determines a political party one supports and votes for. For decades now, Republican Party candidates enjoy vast political support from individuals of higher socioeconomic status while individual of lower economic status tend to vote for Democratic Party candidates.

Role of socioeconomic status on voter turnout

Socioeconomic status in terms of a person’s level of education, income and occupation directly influence a person’s behavior and way of life such as whether an individual register and vote in elections. Research findings have shown that higher socioeconomic status is directly related with active voting participation. This implies that individuals with higher educational background, occupation and income actively participate in political activities. This can be explained by the fact that such an individual has acquired higher education at higher institutions of learning where the significance of participating in civic activities is highly stressed and encouraged. Also, with higher income status, the cost of time one foregoes in order to vote is lower when compared with the poor. There is more peer pressure on the significance of voting amongst individual of higher socioeconomic status (Goidel, Robert and Todd, 1997).

On the other hand, individuals of lower socioeconomic status do not actively participate in elections as they tend to be more apathetic towards political affairs as well as possessing low level of political efficacy; thus resulting in passive participation in voting activities. People in lower socioeconomic status are characterized by lower levels of educational attainment hardly going beyond high school whereby the importance of civic participation is not emphasized. As a result, people do not see any importance of voting; hence lower voter turnout is expected. Secondly, persons with low occupational status are paid minimum wages forcing them to work for longer times in order to get sufficient income to sustain their families. Such individuals can hardly forego even an hour from their jobs to participate in voting activities as they consider this as economic lose! Hence, there is lower voter turnout amongst lower income earners (Caren, 2007).

The effect of socioeconomic status on voter turnout plays an important in America’s two party system whereby vote on the basis of their socioeconomic status. People with lower socioeconomic status usually vote for Democratic candidates as the policies of the policies of the party such as universal healthcare and welfare are beneficial to people of lower socioeconomic status. Consequently, people with higher socioeconomic status prefer voting for Republican candidates as the party policy initiatives are geared towards promoting economic growth. This favours people with higher socioeconomic status as majority of them are business persons mainly concerned with the country’s economic growth (Scott, Wilbur. and Acock, 1998).


Socioeconomic status in term of educational levels, income and occupation are positively correlated to voter turnout. This is because one’s levels of education, income and occupation determines as to whether one will actively participate in election processes. For instance, persons with undergraduate and postgraduate levels of education tend to be active in political activities hence higher voter turnout compared to people with lower education level which does not emphasize on the importance of political activities leading to lower voter turnout.



Caren, Neal., (2007). Big City, Big Turnout? Electoral Participation in American Cities. Journal of Urban Affairs 29:31-46.

Goidel, Robert K. and Todd G. Shields., (1997). Participation Rates, Socioeconomic Class Biases, and Congressional Elections: A Crossvalidation.. American Journal of  Political Science 41:683-691.

Scott, Wilbur J. and Acock, Alan C., (1998) Socioeconomic Status, Unemployment Experience, and Political Participation: A Disentangling of Main and Interaction Effects Political Behavior. 1, (4), 361-381. Springer Netherlands

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