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Voting and Registration in the Election of November 1974

Report Number P20-293

The voter turnout in the 1974 Congressional election of about 39 percent, according to official statistics, was the lowest in an off-year election since 1946. This low turnout is reflected in the results of the November 1974 Current Population Survey where 45 percent of all civilians age 18 and older, not residing in institutions, were reported as having cast ballots.1 Voter participation in 1974 as reported by the survey was about 10 percentage points lower than in the previous Congressional election in 1970, and around 18 percentage points below the level attained in the 1972 Presidential election. That election had one of the lowest turnouts for a Presidential election in recent American history. The number of persons reported as being registered to vote but failing to cast ballots amounted to about 18 percent of the total electorate, while 32 percent were not registered to vote.2

This report presents selected findings from the 1974 voting survey. The "hard core" nonparticipants, that is, those who never vote or seldom vote, are examined in terms of their demographic profile and their reported reasons for not voting. In addition, the demographic characteristics associated with the low turnout in this election are compared with data from the 1970 Congressional and 1972 Presidential elections. New findings on the effect of length of residence and mobility on voting and registration are analyzed. Finally, an analysis is made of the "youth vote," those persons at the lower end of the age scale who have comprised a larger proportion of potential voters since the minimum voting age was uniformly lowered to 18 by the 26th Amendment.

1 The disparity between official results and estimates from the survey has been noted in other surveys, and is due in part to differences between the sample universe and the electorate, and also to certain aspects of the survey process, such as a tendency among respondents to overreport voting participation to interviewers. See Evaluation of the Accuracy of the Data on p. 8 of this report.
2 In addition, registration of approximately 6 percent of the electorate was not reported or not known to the person responding for other household members. In most of the tables in this report, this group is included in the total of those not registered.


Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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