“Issue Brief: Why Are Millions of Citizens Not Registered to Vote?”


Despite these efforts, little is known about eligible but unregistered U.S. citizens’ exposure to opportunities to register, reasons for choosing not to, or attitudes toward the electoral system and civic engagement, or how many of them are interested in registering in the future. To begin to fill this gap, The Pew Charitable Trusts commissioned a nationally representative survey conducted in March and April 2016 that included a large population of unregistered individuals. This chartbook presents findings from the survey about the attitudes and experiences of those who said they were not registered to vote in the months preceding the 2016 presidential election, including:

  • Less than 20 percent of eligible citizens have been offered the chance to register at a motor vehicle or other government agency.

  • The unregistered were more likely to say they do not vote because they dislike politics or believe voting will not make a difference, while people who are registered but vote infrequently say they do not vote more often because they are not informed enough about the candidates or issues.

  • At least 13 percent of the unregistered, generally those who are younger and more civically engaged, say they could be motivated to register in the future.

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