Hey Candidates, People with Disabilities Can Help Elect You…Or Not

How much do you know about the voting habits of people with disabilities and their families? Aren’t they mostly Democrat? Surely they don’t really get out to vote much and they can’t really impact the outcome of an election. They don’t really care about the big issues, just things that affect their disability services. Right?Voting

Wrong. United Cerebral Palsy partnered with the HSC Foundation, Youth Transition Collaborative and other leading disability nonprofits to dig into the profiles of Americans with disabilities and their families and to find out how much they participate in our electoral system and why they vote the way they do. The results may be surprising to some and should serve as a wake-up call to candidates who might disregard this large and important group of voters.

First and foremost, there are nearly 58 million Americans who fall under the Census Bureau’s classification of disabled, including people with chronic conditions. The Census Bureau estimates 69% are registered to vote, just a few percentage points shy of the general population. But while overall voter turnout among registered voters in the last Presidential election was only 57%, this group turned out to the tune of 72% – far higher than other demographic groups. And, 61% percent reported that they plan to vote this November. Add to that number immediate family members who may share their political opinions and what have you got?

Not only do they vote in high numbers, they are very passionate about their issues and engaged in the political process. Eighty-four percent say a candidate’s record on strengthening disability supports and services is important to them and they’re willing to reward candidates with good records at the ballot box (85%). They’re also very likely to penalize candidates who have poor records on disability issues – 87% said they would vote “against” a candidate they would otherwise support if that candidate voted for cuts to disability services and support. Younger people with disabilities (18-30) are somewhat more passionate and quicker to punish candidates for non-support.

However, in general, disability-specific issues did not top their list of issues they considered very important. Like the rest of America, the economy and healthcare ranked #1 & #2 on their list of priorities. Disability issues came in further down the list after education, national security, taxes and other topics frequently debated in politics.

Like the rest of America, people with disabilities are politically diverse with 30% Democrat, 25% Republican and 30% Independent. Those party affiliations come very close to the general population which is described as 31% Democrat, 26% Republican and 41% Independent.

Unfortunately, one in five people with disabilities said they faced a significant barrier in voting in the 2012 elections, citing such issues as transportation, confusing ballots and accessibility to voting places.

At the time of this survey, only 21% of this group approved of Congress’ efforts to improve the lives and conditions of people with disabilities. About 41% approved of President Obama’s efforts. And while only 12% said they felt like they were part of a true movement to change the status quo for people with disabilities, another 19% said they wanted to be. Couple with their passion for our political process, their massive numbers and high turnout, they could one day be a deciding factor in some races. The political world would do itself a tremendous favor by taking notice and courting the support of this important, but sometimes invisible, constituency.

Don’t forget to vote November 4! It can make a difference 

This 2014 survey was designed by maslansky + partners, a non-partisan polling and research firm based in New York, Washington, London, and Paris. It was conducted by Research Now, a well-established, U.S.-based non-partisan survey house. Please contact press@ucp.org for more information.