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Disabled Follow Politics But Have Trouble Voting, Poll Suggests With AM-Elections Rdp Bjt

February 23, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Disabled Americans express greater interest in politics than other citizens, but they register and vote at a rate considerably lower than the general public, says a survey released Tuesday.

″Our findings suggest that barriers, either external or internal or both, prevent many disabled Americans from converting their exceptionally high political interest into actual electoral activity,″ said Humphrey Taylor, president of Louis Harris and Associates, which conducted the poll.

The telephone poll of 536 disabled people nationwide found that 53 percent said they follow government and public affairs most of the time.

In comparison, only 26 percent of all U.S. adults pay attention to politics much of the time, according to a 1984 National Election Study by the University of Michigan.

During the 1984 presidential campaign, 46 percent of the disabled Americans were ″very much interested″ in the contest compared with 35 percent of all adults, according to the new survey, conducted in June and July 1987 by Louis Harris and Associates.

However, the interest did not translate into equal levels of registration and voting,

Disabled people registered at a rate that is six points lower than the general population and voted at a rate that 12 points lower, the poll said.

The most common barrier cited for disabled people was lack of transportation and difficulty in getting to the polls, problems noted by 29 percent of the respondents. Twenty-one percent said it was difficult to stand or walk.

The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Taylor said he expects the number of disabled voters to increase as states comply with federal law to make areas accessible to the nation’s approximately 35 million disabled.

The survey defined disabled as people with a health problem that prevented them from working, attending school or participating in other activities; people with a physical disability such as blindness, or people who considered themselves disabled.

The announcement of the survey results coincided with the start of the National Organization on Disability’s public service campaign to encourage the disabled to register to vote.

The campaign included magazine ads featuring photos of former Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan and presidential press secretary James Brady, and the words, ″We’re Here Promoting Voter Registration for the 1988 Elections.″

The ad also carries a toll-free number for registration information: 1-800-248-ABLE.

One-minute television spots also promote the hotline number.

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