Abstract: The Impact of Race and Gender on U.S. Voting Participation (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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582P The Impact of Race and Gender on U.S. Voting Participation

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Christopher Strickland, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Georgia, Atlanta, GA

Voting rights are the hallmark of participation in a democratic society. However, since our nation’s beginnings, the right to vote has been allocated by state and governmental actors through an explicit and implicit framework privileging white malehood and marginalizing experiences that deviate through cultural and structural barriers. Although historically marginalized communities in the U.S. received the right to vote in theory through 19th and 20th-century constitutional amendments, an overabundance of literature and research spanning decades since demonstrates these communities continue to bear disproportionate obstacles in actualizing their right to vote. To robustly evaluate whether the issue of voting rights persists today, this study investigated the effect of race and self-identified gender on voting difficulty during the 2020 election cycle to assess whether racial background and self-identified gender still hindered equal access to the democratic process.


Data and sample: I used the 2020 American National Election Study to conduct statistical analyses on relevant variables. This year’s sample included over 8,000 respondents.

Measures: For this study, I measure voting participation through self-disclosed difficulty in voting. Responses were plotted on a Likert Scale, with “1” being “not difficult at all” and “5” being “extremely difficult.” The study's key variables included self-identified race and gender, and control variables included total household income, party of registration (Democrat, Republican, or Independent), and self-reported experiences of racial and gender-based discrimination.


Using a multiple linear regression model, my study found that the relationship between voting difficulty and race and gender was statistically significant. The overall regression was statistically significant (r2=.695, F= 6.181, p<.001). Controlling for income, party affiliation, and experiences of prior instances of discrimination, it was found that race significantly predicted voting difficulty (β=.047, p<.001). Being non-white predicted a .21 unit increase in voting difficulty experience. It was also found that gender significantly predicted voting difficulty (β=.046, p<.001). Being non-male predicted a .211 unit increase in voting difficulty experience.

Conclusions and Implications

The findings of this study suggest racial and gender-based identities continue to experience structural obstacles in their efforts to realize their constitutional right to voting participation. This investigation uncovers an avenue of intervention for the social work profession in mobilizing against social injustice and white supremacy in the ethical call for anti-racist practice.