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American disengagement: At our own peril

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Monday, July 7, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A new Pew Research Center report that “sorts voters into cohesive groups based on their attitudes and values” finds a worrisome number of Americans are — surprise, surprise — disaffected from government and disengaged from the political process.

Based on a nationwide survey of 10,013 adults, Pew says three of eight “political typology” groups make up 36 percent of the population but account for 43 percent of registered voters and 57 percent of “politically engaged” Americans “who regularly vote and routinely follow government and public affairs.”

“Steadfast Conservatives” and “Business Conservatives” constitute the Republicans' base; “Solid Liberals” form the Democrats' base.

“Young Outsiders,” “Hard-Pressed Skeptics,” “Next Generation Left” and “Faith and Family Left” groups combined represent 54 percent of the population but just 43 percent of the “politically engaged.” And fully 10 percent of Americans are “Bystanders” who “are not registered to vote and pay very little attention to politics.”

Government is only as good as voters demand that it be. Yet two-thirds of Americans are so fed up that they allow one-third to dominate — and let vote-hungry politicians get away with ignoring them, reinforcing a vicious cycle of apathy and low voter turnout.

The “politically disengaged” might get the government they deserve. But government will get better only if more Americans demand that it does — via the ballot box, especially this November and in 2016.

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