With the 2016 federal elections on the horizon, gamers are mobilizing to register themselves to vote through a new initiative by the Video Game Voter Network called “Start Democracy.” Launched on November 12th, Start Democracy is both a celebration of the VGVN’s registration of one million members to their online community and a renewed effort to prepare voting-aged gamers to head to the polls. In coordination with Rock The Vote, another prominent voter-registration organization, gamers and citizens can register to vote on VGVN’s website as part of its Start Democracy campaign.
Though the VGVN primarily identifies itself as a bulwark against legislation and political criticism targeting games, the Start Democracy campaign suggests that the VGVN is going beyond the realm of games into energizing voting gamers, regardless of their political beliefs. Highlighting Start Democracy’s importance are some very interesting statistics that are worth discussing in detail.
Viewers of Start Democracy’s webpage will see this infographic:
One of the most impressive numbers on that image is the rate of voter turnout amongst gamers. At 80%, the voter turnout of gamers completely flies by that of the general population, of which 53.6% voted in the 2012 federal elections and merely 36.3% voted in the 2014 federal elections. The infographic also indicates 155 million Americans play video games. Of those 155 million, 115 million are voting age. If we take the pledges of these gamers seriously, then according to Start Democracy, we should see 92 million American gamers turn out to vote in 2016.
But how will those gamers vote? The infographic says 38% affiliate with Republicans/The Tea Party, 38% with Democrats and that 24% are Independents. If those partisan affiliations hold true, then based on our 124 million reliable voters, the Democratic and Republican nominees should each earn roughly 35 million gamer votes, with almost 22 million Independents up for grabs. To put that into perspective, in 2012 Barack Obama garnered approximately 66 million popular votes to win his re-election. Of course, who the nominees are will complicate that hypothesis, as well as who the Independents will side with in the end.
Despite the party affiliation breakdown, there are interesting nuances to gamers’ political positions. According to the survey from which the Start Democracy statistics are derived, respondents said the biggest issues facing America were the economy and terrorism. Younger respondents aged 18-24 said the economy and race relations were the most important, followed by class disparity and education. Overall, the responses indicate both conservative and progressive leanings. 67% support greater investment in renewable energy, and a whopping 76% believe human activity causes or contributes to climate change (the highest rate of response to a single query). Conversely, 61% of respondents said there should be a more equitable distribution of wealth, and yet only 25% viewed tax increases as a viable remedy (the lowest rate of response to a query). With the respondents’ political alignment split down the middle, it makes sense that their responses would feature aspects of both ideologies.
Let’s talk about the source. The survey which gathered these results polled 4,147 American adults who play video games at least 3-4 hours per week. While generalizing results to the population based on a representative sample is commonplace, predicting the actions of 115 million of us based on a comparatively tiny pool of respondents seems like a stretch. Though I am a firm believer that gamers are indeed more civic minded than the average citizen, we’ll see if 92 million gamers really turn out in 2016. Personally, I would love to see that. I wrote in a previous piece that gamers are powerful force in American politics despite being completely ignored by most candidates seeking voters. It’s good to see that VGVN and Start Democracy are taking up the task of involving gamers in political action and making our significance known.
*The numbers in this article have been amended to reflect the fact that of the 155 million gamers in America, only 115 million are voting aged.