Voter Apathy: Is This The Reason Why Trump And the Republicans Did So Well?

As noted by the Washington Post, voter apathy seems to increase and participation seems to drop lower with every election. People wonder about the root cause of voter apathy and what its short and long term effects might be. Is this why Trump won so unexpectedly this election year? Is there a solution to this problem?

2016 US polling station.
2016 US polling station. [Image by Steve Pope/Getty Images]

There are two primary factors contributing to the increased voter apathy in the United States. The first is the negative reporting that turns people off from the entire election process. Most people would prefer for the media to simply cover the candidate’s views on the issues rather than delving into their personalities.

This kind of reporting goes back to the beginning of our republic, but has gotten worse in recent years. As noted by PBS News, the second factor causing voter apathy was the invention of television and the 24-hour news media. The Internet has made this even more significant. Suddenly, hours and hours of news had to be created and given there was only so much real news, the networks and websites had created filler that they pretended was real news.

Another aspect of the television problem was that the growth of the entertainment industry, in general, created a culture of escapism. Whether it was movies, TV, or the Internet, people became less interested in complex debates about the issues of the day than they were in being entertained.

Politics was and is seen as boring by many. The networks that produced news programs realized that they were going to have to change the news if they were going to make it more palatable to the increasingly disinterested American public.

For this reason, the news about politics and the various office holders – or candidates for office – was injected with the kind of drama and gossip that had previously been reserved for entertainment programs. The news providers reasoned that airing a candidate’s dirty laundry or stressing the conflict between the two major parties – instead of the many things on which they agreed – would pull in the kind if ratings they were looking for.

And they were right. In many ways, Americans have become more news obsessed than ever. At the same time, the vitriolic nature of current news programs, with demagogues from both sides denouncing the other, has contributed to the erosion of public confidence in all politicians. This, in turn, has caused many people to see the two sides as equally bad, reducing voter turnout.

Another problem with this focus on the negative and petty made up scandals is that the real issues got lost in all the noise the news networks were putting out. The noise to real news ratio became so bad that many potential voters have no idea what the real issues are or how they affect them and their families. And fake news make it even worse.

While it was easy to find out which candidate had been caught cheating on his or her spouse or their taxes, it became much more difficult to discover a candidate’s views on military expenditures, tax policy, or crime reduction.

This means that – despite the ocean of “news” available to them – American voters are now less informed on important matters than their parents were, and this is only getting worse. This kind of ignorance quite naturally breeds apathy. If you don’t know what the issues are or even if there are important issues, you are less likely to be motivated to vote. But the fundamental question is, what kind be done –if anything– to solve this problem?

[Featured Image by Steve Pope/Getty Images]