Hillary Clinton

The Truth Behind Sanders' Claim that ‘Poor Don't Vote'

Bernie Sanders made waves in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press this week, after claiming that low income Americans do not vote.

A recent NPR report showed that 17 of the states with the highest income inequality in the country have held primary elections, and Hillary Clinton was the victor in 16 of those states.

The numbers prompted Meet the Press host, Chuck Todd, to inquire why Sanders, a candidate known for making income inequality his pet issue, did not win in those states.

“Well, because poor people don’t vote,” Sanders responded. “I mean that’s just a fact…The last election in 2014, 80 percent of poor people did not vote.”

It is true that low income Americans show up to the polls in lower numbers than their wealthier counterparts. So Sanders’ claim is true at face value. However, the Vermont senator is a bit off on the numbers.

Census data from the 2014 election shows that households at or below the poverty line, those making around $30,000 a year or less, voted about 31 percent of the time that year. That means about 69 percent of low income voters didn’t show up to polls in 2014, not the 80 percent as Sanders claimed.

The Census data breaks down the percentage of voters who showed up to the polls within each income bracket. The numbers range from 24.5 percent for households making less than $10,000 a year and tops out at 56 percent for those earning $150,000 a year or more. In other words, the higher the income, the greater the percentage of voters.

However, the 2014 midterm election that Sanders referenced on Meet the Press had a really low turnout overall, only about 36 percent nationally. That’s the lowest turnout since the midterm election in 1942.

Everyone voted in lower numbers in 2014, and the average turnout and the low income turnout were only separated by a few percentage points.

Sanders’ claim holds some truth. Low income people are less likely to make it out to the polls on Election Day, but it’s hard to see how that explains losing 16 out of those 17 states.

Contact Us