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Low-Income Votes Down In Last Election

Voting by low-income Americans was down sharply in the November elections that swept Republicans into control of Congress. Turnout was up for people making $50,000 or more.

Overall turnout was down slightly from the previous two off-year elections, despite the increases for higher-income, better-educated Americans.

The figures suggest that upperincome people “saw an opportunity for the Republicans to get in” and responded, said Curtis Gans of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate.

According to a Census report released Wednesday, 60.1 percent of voting-age Americans with incomes of $50,000 or more voted last fall, up from 59.2 percent four years earlier.

But at the same time, those with incomes under $5,000 declined from 32.2 percent turnout to 19.9 percent. The drop was from 30.9 percent to 23.3 percent for those making $5,000 to $10,000.

The drop in low-income voting combined with the rise at higher levels means that people in the top income group made up 23.4 percent of all voters last fall, Gans said, up from 18 percent four years earlier.

Overall, the Census study found that 44.6 percent of eligible Americans voted last November, down from 45 percent in 1990 and 46 percent in 1986, the latest two congressional contests that didn’t also include a presidential race.

Gans noted that actual voting totals indicate a smaller turnout than that, the result of people who didn’t vote preferring not to admit that to Census poll-takers.

Voter participation last year rose with education.

For example, 63.1 percent of college graduates voted, up from 62.5 percent in 1990. By comparison, 40.5 percent of high school graduates voted, down from 42.2 percent in 1990; and just 23.2 percent of people who hadn’t finished elementary school went to the polls.