Democracy in Peril: Dangerous Voter Turnout Trends

By Roosevelt Institute |

Download the paper (PDF) by Walter Dean Burnham

American turnout patterns are analyzed through comparisons with other countries and considerations of changes through time. The paper examines the effect of the New Deal on turnout, and, using Census data, considers how factors such as ethnicity and social class have influenced voter mobilization and demobilization, especially as the New Deal coalition has ebbed. It considers whether recent trends indicate an emerging crisis in our democracy.

Key findings:

  • US voter turnout patterns stand out by comparison with other advanced societies.
  • The US locally centered system of election administration makes voting very difficult by international standards.
  • The New Deal mobilized millions of new voters, but as the New Deal waned, voter turnout fell sharply.
  • Big money and low turnout are a lethal combination for a democracy.

Read “Democracy in Peril: The American Turnout Problem and the path to Plutocracy,” by Walter Dean Burnham.

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