Obama won the 2012 election with 50.1% of the vote, right?
There are roughly 318,770,000 people living in this country (2014 estimate), but Obama only received 58,720,700 votes. Do the math, this comes out to 18.4%
The common misconception I see going around is that people assume because he won the election with slightly over half the vote, that half the people they meet in their daily lives must support him.
Totally not true at all (especially considering that so many of the people who did vote for him don’t even support him – they were just picking between the “lesser of two evils”). Choosing one option of a false dichotomy because you’re more afraid of the other option does not necessarily mean that you like or support it.
As a side note to all of this, the fact that he’s still running a ~40% approval rating despite the fact that only 18.4% of the people in this country voted for him is pretty impressive in my opinion.
The reasons for this discrepancy between the numbers involve many factors. First and foremost, people under the age of 18 cannot legally vote (though they are counted by the census). Close to 25% of our population is under the age of 18. Realistically you can’t exactly expect a 2 year old to vote for the President. So that makes sense.
Another large demographic of people who can’t vote are illegal immigrants and convicted felons (note: once a person has “completely their sentence” they regain their voting rights, but while they are in prison, on parole or on probation they can’t).
Both of these groups are counted in the census though. Illegal immigrants may not be citizens, but they are living in this country and count as people you might run into as you go about your daily life.
(I’m assuming people who are institutionalized for severe mental illnesses where they don’t even understand who they are probably can’t vote either, but I’m not even going to touch that one right now).
But the factor I’m going to focus on here is apathy: we have generally around a 60% voter turnout rate, and dropped from 62.3% in 2008 to 57.5% in 2012 so that’s right in line with the average (for the purposes of this post, the last 4 or 5 elections we’ve had saw around a 60% voter turnout rate, a statistically insignificant portion of the populace voting “3rd party” and essentially the Republican and Democratic candidates received ~50%, with the victor winning by an incredibly narrow margin).
Now, as fucked up as it is that there are so many “illegal people” living in this country who can’t vote, there’s an even bigger chunk of people living in this country who are totally eligible to vote, but choose not to.
Sure, 40% of people choosing not to vote may not seem like a lot. It’s not the majority after all. It’s not like over half the eligible voters aren’t voting…
But again, put this into perspective. Sure, 50.1% of people who voted chose Obama, that means he got the majority of the vote, that means over half the country wants him to be President… Nope!
If 40% of eligible voters are choosing not to vote, that means that ~50/50 split between Obama and Romney is being split between the 60% who did choose to vote, which means each of those candidates only got ~30% of the people who were eligible to vote for them.
Now, wait, 30% is less than 40%….
In case I’m not making myself perfectly clear, out of all the people who were eligible to vote, roughly 30% voted for Obama, roughly 30% voted for Romney, and the remaining 40% or so chose not to even vote at all.
Apathy wins in a landslide.