Under 20% of eligible voters took part in primaries, study says

October 04, 1990|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Less than 20 percent of those old enough to vote went to the polls in this year's primary elections, according to a study made public this week by an organization that monitors voter turnout.

The report, by the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, said that turnout actually rose in some places, where voters have vented their anger at candidates perceived as being old-fashioned politicians.

But in other places, the number of people going to the polls declined as apathy continued to prevail.

As a result, the study said, the turnout rate for the recent round of primaries was about the same as for the last two midterm election years, 1982 and 1986, but was substantially lower than the rate of voting in primaries as recently as 25 years ago.

The anti-politician mood has been felt this year in a few places, like Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. Turnout in the Massachusetts primary was the highest since 1962; in the District of Columbia, turnout was the highest since the city was granted self-rule in 1974.

But Curtis Gans, director of the committee, said that this mood had not become strong enough yet to generate an overall upturn in voting.

Of the 26 states that held primaries in both parties in both 1986 and 1990, 12 had higher turnouts and 14 declined.

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