Government and Politics

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groups within the United States. Voter turn out has been particularly low among younger Americans and members of racial and ethnic minorities. In 1984, only 36 percent of eligible voters aged 18 to 20 went to the polls.

According to a postelection survey, only 55. 8 percent of eligible black voters and 32. 6 percent of Hispanic reported that they had actually voted.

Moreover, the poor—whose focus understandably is on survival—are traditionally under-represented among voters as well. The low turnout found among these groups is explained, at least in part, by their common feeling of powerlessness. Yet such voting statistics encourage political power brokers to continue to ignore the interests of the young, the less affluent, and the nation’s minorities.

Sociologist Anthony Orum notes that people are more likely to participate actively in political life if they have a sense of political efficacy—that is, if they feel that they have (he ability to influence politicians and the political order. In addition, citizens are more likely to become involved if they trust political leaders or feel that an organized political party represents their interest. Without question, in an age marked by the rise of big government and by revelations of political corruption at the highest levels, many Americans of all social groups feel powerless and distrustful.

Yet such feelings are especially intense among the young, the poor, and minorities. is a result, many view political participation, including voting, as a waste of time. Cross-national comparisons, while confirming he comparatively low level of voting in the linked States, also suggest that Americans are more likely than citizens of other nations to be active at the community level, to contact local officials on behalf of themselves or others, and to have worked for .

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