Abstract

Context: Previous research has shown that Americans with disabilities turn out to vote at significantly lower levels than people without disabilities, even after accounting for demographic and other situational factors related to political involvement. The authors examined the potential mechanisms underlying their low turnout. They asked whether people with disabilities exhibit participatory attitudes and behaviors at levels commensurate with their other individual-level characteristics.

Methods: The present study conducted descriptive and predictive analyses on data from the 2012 and 2016 American National Election Studies.

Findings: Despite low levels of turnout in recent elections, people with disabilities were just as participatory, if not more so, when considering alternative forms of political engagement. Our analyses indicate that, while disability status had no bearing on political efficacy or partisan strength, those with disabilities reported being even more interested in politics than those without disabilities. Evidence is provided that depressed turnout rates among those with disabilities may be due in part to lower levels of attentiveness to the news, political knowledge, and negative perceptions of government.

Conclusions: The psychological impacts and behavioral consequences that emerge from possessing a disability and the broader role of disability in the American political context are multifaceted. This area of research would benefit from future studies which examine a variety of electoral contexts.

This content is only available as a PDF.