A new study by Nonprofit VOTE found that turnout among voters contacted by nonprofits during the 2012 election was 74%, six points above the 68% turnout rate for all registered voters.
The clients engaged by nonprofits were markedly more diverse, lower income, and younger than the general population of registered voters. Though these demographic groups are known to turn out at lower rates than their peers, nonprofits were successfully able to narrow traditional voting gaps based on age, race, ethnicity, and household income.
To assess the impact nonprofits have on turnout, Nonprofit VOTE enlisted 94 nonprofit service providers in seven states to track their voter contacts for evaluation purposes. These organizations reached 33,741 clients who registered or signed a pledge to vote. The results are available in a new report, Can Nonprofits Increase Voting Among Their Clients, Constituents, and Staff? An Evaluation of the Track the Vote Program.
“The findings and demographic information from this study underscore the potential of local nonprofits to reach people missed by campaigns and who are not expected to vote,” said Michael Weekes, President of the Providers’ Council and Nonprofit VOTE Chair.
In the study, the nonprofits had their biggest participation impact among groups underrepresented in the electoral process. The turnout rate of voters contacted by nonprofits compared to all registered voters was:
- 18 points higher for Latino voters (72% vs. 54%),
- 15 points higher for voters under the age of 30 (68% vs. 53%), and
- 15 points higher for voters with household incomes under $25,000 (68% vs. 53%).
“Political participation is highly unequal in the United States, and efforts to engage the lowest-income Americans are scattered,” says Peter Levine, Executive Director of CIRCLE, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. “One highly promising strategy is to integrate nonpartisan voter registration and outreach into the activities of nonprofits that serve the poorest Americans. The new report from Nonprofit VOTE shows that this approach worked in 2012 and should be strengthened for 2014 and beyond.”