By: Yang Cao
The United States, as the world leader (for democratic countries at least), may excel in many fields, but in terms of voter turnout it trails far behind other industrialized countries. The voter turnout measured in terms of voting age population was only 55.7% in 2016, while the highest countries report that more than 80% of the voting age population actually votes. Studies show that demographics like education, income and age can help predict voter turnout; but, these factors cannot be the cause of such huge discrepancies in voter turnout between U.S. and countries that have highest voter turnout, as the U.S. should have similar demographics to those countries. On the other hand, some studies have concluded that, while the U.S. and countries like Sweden might have similar demographic, the U.S. has far more negative campaigns than Sweden and other European countries, and that rising negative campaign in the past decades is solely an American phenomenon. Given these facts, it is only natural to ask why politicians have to use negative campaigns instead of positive campaigns, which does not hammer voter turnout. Researchers have also proven that negative campaigns are more effective than positive ones, which means kind persuasion will not stop politicians from doing so. Meanwhile, outlawing negative campaigns is also unrealistic because of it would be content based and subject to strict scrutiny.
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