Disability and Engagement in the Election
More than 56 million Americans, or 19% of the population, are living with some form of disability – whether physical, mental or communicative, according to the Census Bureau. And recent projections suggest that 35.4 million disabled Americans will be eligible to vote in the 2016 election (roughly 17% of the electorate).
A new analysis of data from Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel finds a slightly different share than the Census Bureau: the Center found that 22% of Americans self-report living with a disability, defined here as a “health problem, disability, or handicap currently keeping you from participating fully in work, school, housework, or other activities.” Of those who say they have a disability, half (51%) say they have “serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs,” 31% say they have “serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions” and 19% say they have difficulty doing errands alone.
Those self-identifying as disabled are somewhat more likely than the general public to report being particularly engaged with this election. In a survey conducted in June, fully 71% of Americans with disabilities said it “really matters who wins the election,” compared with 59% of Americans who do not have a disability.
Similarly, 41% of those who are disabled were following the campaign “very closely” in June. By comparison, 33% of Americans without disabilities said the same.
These differences are driven primarily by the fact that the disabled, as a group, aredisproportionately older than the population. Though not all disabled Americans are older Americans, many of those 65 and older report being in some way disabled. And older Americans generally tend to be more attentive to politics and government than their younger counterparts. In other words, it is likely age and not disability status that drives their level of political engagement.