Lesson Plan: Why Do Americans Not Vote in Elections?

A Report on Nonvoters in the United States

The Knight Foundation released a report on voting in the United States. The study found that 100 million eligible voters do not vote in the United States. This video provided an overview of the study and the reasons why people do not vote.


This lesson looks at recent surveys and political polling about voter participation and seeks to answer the question "Why don't eligible voters vote?" Using video clip of political scientists, pollsters and journalists, students will identify factors that affect voter participation and develop possible strategies to improve voter turnout in U.S. elections.


  • WARM-UP:

    Before starting class, have the students brainstorm a list of possible answers for the following question:

    • Why do Americans not vote in elections?

    Review the students' answers to the warm-up question and address any misconceptions.

    Introduce the topic of voter participation by viewing the following video clip as a class. Student can use the questions listed below as a guide for watching the video clip.

    VIDEO CLIP 1: A Report on Nonvoters in the United States (2:21)

    • Describe the number of non-voters in U.S. elections.

    • Describe the demographics and statistics relating to non-voters in the United States.

    • What are some of the reasons why people do not vote?

    • Why is voter turnout important to a democracy?

    After viewing the introductory video, have the students use the Voter Participation Handout (Google Doc) to view each of the video clips and take notes on the reasons why eligible voter do not vote. Students should also brainstorm ideas on how to increase the number of people who vote in U.S. elections. This section of the lesson can also be adjusted to be a jigsaw activity.

    HANDOUT: Voter Participation (Google Doc)


    Once students have viewed all video clips and brainstormed ways to increase voter participation, have the students either individually or in small groups perform the following task.

    • Based on the information provided in the video, develop a written plan to increase voter participation in the next election. Provide three specific strategies that can be used to reduce the number of nonvoters and explain why they would be effective.

    As an exit slip, have the students respond to the following questions in 1-3 sentences.

    • What do you think is the biggest reason why Americans do not voter in elections?

    Eligible Voter Interviews- Find an eligible voter who is willing to provide a brief interview about voting. Write questions, perform the interview and record their responses. Your interview should address the following topics. Present your findings to the class.

    • Their voting habits.

    • Reasons why they do or do not vote.

    • Their opinions on the importance of voting.

    The 100 Million Project- Using the Knight Foundation website, explore the The 100 Million Project interactive website. As you are exploring, answer the following questions:

    • Describe two facts or statistics that you learned or found surprising.

    • Describe two fact or statistics that you knew already or did not find surprising.

    • Does this report seem to reflect the opinions and behaviors that you see in your family and community? Why or why not?

    • Why is voter turnout important to a functioning democracy?

    • Should voting be mandatory in the United States?

    • Should candidates for office focus on voter turnout efforts or persuading regular voters?
    • Why do you think young people vote in smaller numbers than older generations?

    • Based on the information from the video clips, why do you think education and news consumption have such an impact on voter participation?

Additional Resource


  • Ballot
  • Candidate
  • Candidates
  • Civic Education
  • Disengagement
  • Eligible Voter
  • Information Consumption
  • Midterms
  • Moderate
  • Network Effects
  • News Consumption
  • News Literacy
  • Nonvoter
  • Partisan
  • Polling Place
  • Self-report
  • Social Media
  • Voter Identification
  • Voter Participation Rate
  • Voter Registration
  • Voter Turnout


Campaigns & Elections


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