JUNE 22, 1956
NEW YORK—The American Heritage Foundation this year is sponsoring a "Register and Vote" campaign and, as a background for this program, has done some research. I think the information that has been turned up should be widely known in this country, the leading democracy in the world.
In 1952, for instance, only 63 percent of the adults in the United States voted in the Presidential election. This was somewhat of an improvement, however, over 1944, when we were at war. Then, only 53 percent of the adults went to the polls.
But how does this compare with the voting records of people in other countries?
In Belgium, 90 percent of the eligible voters cast ballots. In England, the figure was 83 percent; in Sweden, 80 percent. These are considerably better than our record, and we must remember that the U.S. figures were for Presidential election years when the vote is always higher.
Going beyond this, the researchers determined which groups had the lowest and the highest voting records.
I suppose it is somewhat easier for voters in the city to get to the polls, or perhaps it is easier for the appeals to vote to reach them. In any case, 79 percent of the city voters cast ballots.
And, I am happy to say, education seemed to be a factor. Ninety percent of college-educated persons voted and 88 percent of those in professions or management positions.
This should be a concern, however, to those with the lowest voting records, for it means they have less influence in their government, from which they need greater protection than those in other groups.
It did not surprise me to find that Negroes were among those with the lowest voting record, because poll taxes in many states have made it almost impossible for them to cast ballots. But I was astonished that the young people between the ages of 21 and 29 cast only 50 percent of their potential 20 million votes!
The low–income groups—those with incomes of less than $2,000 a year—are improving their voting record, but in 1952 it was only 53 percent. Women, I am ashamed to say, cast only 59 percent of their 53 million vote potential.
Reasons given by those in the low–voting groups for not going to the polls are interesting. They said they "can't make up their minds," "one vote doesn't count," "politics are a bore," and they "don't understand how the government works."
The American Heritage Foundation is making a great effort in this program and 125 national organizations have agreed to cooperate in getting people, regardless of political party, to register and vote this year.
The Advertising Council is cooperating, 500 leading corporations have planned programs for their employees and communities in which they operate, and the foundation has asked the help of newspapers, magazines, television, radio, movies and columnists.
If you don't register, you lose your vote! So be sure to do both, for this year there are many election issues coming up which will affect the daily lives of every individual in our country.