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The Implications of Nonvoting for Democracy in the United States

Stephen Earl Bennett and David Resnick
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 34, No. 3 (Aug., 1990), pp. 771-802
DOI: 10.2307/2111398
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111398
Page Count: 32
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The Implications of Nonvoting for Democracy in the United States
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Abstract

This paper reconsiders several of the arguments normative theorists have constructed about political participation's impact on the democratic polity. Two key arguments are addressed in the context of the United States today: (1) does nonvoting pose a threat to democracy; and (2) does nonvoting cause skewed public policies? The CPS's National Election Studies, NORC's 1985 General Social Survey, and Gallup's 1987 "The People, Press, and Politics" poll indicate the first can be answered in the negative, but there may be some skews on domestic issues, particularly those dealing with spending for welfare state programs. On the other hand, nonvoters are not more egalitarian or in favor of government ownership or control of industry. Nonetheless, it would be erroneous to discount participation's worth for democratic politics because, if it makes elites pay attention to public opinion, its value is firmly established.

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