America wakes up today without a confirmed winner of the 2020 US Presidential Election. But during the campaign, and the vote, the election has been an opportunity for Americans to have their voice heard on the social issues they care about.
According to the National Exit Poll, which asked American voters for their views on election day, the biggest issue at play has been the economy, with 35% of respondents citing the US economy as the main factor in their 2020 voting decision. 20% said the issue that mattered most to them was racial inequality, while 17% of respondents said the coronavirus pandemic was the most important factor when they decided which presidential candidate to back.
Other issues raised in the Exit Poll included health care, as well as crime and safety, with both issues mentioned by 11% of respondents.
In America, voting is seen as an essential way to address key social issues. Many Americans see it as their patriotic duty to vote, and the election process as a symbol of their democratic rights. Former US president Abraham Lincoln once said that “Elections belong to the people”, a powerful message which continues to resonate with Americans to this day.
Lincoln also once remarked that “The ballot is stronger than the bullet”, an iconic statement emphasising that different views on social issues need to be resolved by dialogue and democracy, not by violence. Irrespective of the outcome of the 2020 election, experts are already citing an increase in this year’s voter turnout as a strong positive for American democracy, allowing more people to have their voice heard on the issues they care about.
According to Michael McDonald of the United States Elections Project, “The 2020 presidential election had the highest turnout rate in 120 years”, with more than 150 million votes expected to have been cast. In the 2016 US presidential election, just under 139 million votes were cast, representing around 60.1% of the American population eligible to vote. In the 2012 election, voter turnout was approximately 58.6% of the eligible voting population, suggesting that in just the last 8 years, voter interest has substantially increased in America.
However, America still often lags behind other nations on voter turnout. Just before the election on November 3rd, the Pew Research Center looked at how voter turnout in the US compares to other nations which form part of the OECD – the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Most of the OECD nations are highly developed democratic states, offering a good like for like comparison. According to the Pew Research Center study, “Looking at the most recent nationwide election in each OECD nation, the US places 30th out of 35 nations for which data is available” on voter turnout.
The data suggests that even though the 2020 American presidential election could have a record turnout, much more needs to be done to encourage more people to vote.
Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, sums it up well when he says that “By voting, we add our voice to the chorus that forms opinions and the basis for actions.” Voting is an essential way of highlighting and addressing key social issues, and irrespective of who wins the US election this year, the real winner could be increased voter turnout leading to more dialogue on the issues that matter.