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A Survey on Why People with Disabilities and their Supporters Voted the Way They Did for President in 2004

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This survey and report were developed, analyzed and written by Alan Toy, Associate Director of the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, with the assistance of Ali Valenzuela and Atif Moon. The UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge is a research center in the School of Public Affairs that specializes in the use of internet mapping technologies to empower disenfranchised communities.

URL for this survey: http://lila.ucla.edu/Master.cfm?Content=WhatsNew&
SubContent=WhatsNew_View.cfm&LILA_WhatsNewID=240&CFID=33183&
CFTOKEN=96489931

April 27, 2005

"Thank god it was GW!" "We're doomed."
A Survey on Why People with Disabilities and their Supporters Voted the Way They Did for President in 2004

Shortly after the 2004 elections, the National Organization on Disability released the results of a Harris Poll taken just before the election. It showed that a majority of Americans with disabilities were going to vote for George Bush and Dick Cheney, in contradiction to many other theories and indications put forth by disability community activists. In the face of these results, some wondered why people with disabilities would apparently vote against their interests and whether the Independent Living movement had a "problem" getting its messages out.

A team of researchers at the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge decided to look into these questions more deeply to try to identify any significant trends in the choices made by voters with disabilities and those closely associated by family or profession in the U.S. Presidential contest.

Unlike the Harris Poll, this survey was conducted online, by anonymous self-selection, through the LILA (Living Independently in Los Angeles - http://lila.ucla.edu) Website. The survey was publicized through emails sent to several thousand people identified as belonging to or working within the disability community. It was further made known on several listservs, in electronic newsletters and by other means utilized by the email recipients. Judging from the zip codes of the respondents, the survey reached most regions of the country and was open for self-selected, voluntary participation from November 30, 2004 until December 31, 2004.

LILA is a Website for people with disabilities and is thus quite accessible to users with differing adaptive technologies. The survey was similarly accessible, although there were a couple of initial complaints from a few blind users utilizing specific screen reader devices. One or two others expressed the desire to respond via email, but that would have compromised their anonymity. Overall, we were pleased with the responses The participants had a wide variety of disabilities and came from most regions of the country.

 

Who Responded?

483 persons participated in the poll. Like many self-selected surveys, the respondents tend to weigh heavily on one side or the other of the universal spectrum of potential respondents. Taking these weighted responses into account, we conducted further analysis to compare voting patterns and choices among those who answered certain ways to the 34 different questions on the survey. Those trends will be discussed further on in the report.

But first let's look at the raw numbers:

Party Affiliation - The vast majority of the participants stated that they are Democrats (260 to 90 Republicans and 71 "Others").

Actual Vote for President - Similarly, the actual vote tally was heavily for Kerry-Edwards (326) over Bush-Cheney (99). 6 voted for Nader-Camejo and 13 for "Someone else."

Age - About half of the respondents (239) were middle aged (35-54), while 85 were between 18-34 participated and 151 were over 55 years of age.

Race - The vast majority were Caucasian (over 89%), with slightly less than 4% each being African Americans or Latinos/Hispanics. Fewer than 2% each were Asian, American Indian or Pacific Islanders.

Education - Most of those who participated were quite well educated. 22 finished high school or less. 120 had some college. 153 had bachelor degrees and 176 had completed post-graduate studies.

Income - Despite the high education levels (and somewhat indicative of the lower employment figures for pwd), the income levels across the economic scale were surprisingly equal for each level. 87 had household incomes of $16,000 or less; 85 had $16-30,000; 105 had between $30-50,000; 75 had $50-75,000; 51 had $75-100,000 and 55 had total household incomes over $100,000.

Religion - People with a wide variety of religious faiths participated in the survey, except, notably no Muslims responded. 314 considered themselves "very" or "somewhat" religious and 157 answered "not really" or "not at all."

Disability Types - The survey offered a lot of choices for type of disability, including "other." Many who answered "other" actually had a type listed specifically, so we included them in the appropriate categories. Since respondents were allowed to pick all that applied, many listed multiple disabilities. The disabilities listed are as follows:

Physical Mobility - 241;
Leg and/or Arm Amputee - 15;
Visual Impairment - 31;
Blind - 38;
Hard of Hearing - 39;
Deaf - 21;
Speech Impaired - 21;
Intellectual/Developmental/Traumatic Brain Injury - 24;
Learning Disability - 18;
Psychiatric - 43;
Other (than above) - 13;
No Disability - 78;

Length of Disability - Again, the response was heavily weighted with people who have long-term disabilities. 322 answered that they have been either disabled since birth or for longer than 11 years. 73 have had their disabilities for 11 years or less.

Those who had NO disabilities had:
Parents with disabilities - 11;
Siblings with disabilities - 11;
Children with disabilities - 35;
Other relatives with disabilities - 27;
Friends with disabilities - 44;
Or work in a disability related profession - 79.

Political Viewpoint - These answers were also reflective of the self-selection factor. Most respondents are either "Very Progressive" (104) or "Liberal" (161). 135 people said they are "Moderate" and 49 are "Conservative." Only 12 answered that they are "Very Conservative."

Military Service - 33 veterans responded, of whom 9 have service related disabilities.

Employment Status - Fewer than half of the respondents have full time jobs (215), but if part time (69) and self-employment (32) are added, most of the survey participants have jobs. 75 are unemployed, 25 are students and 39 are retired.

Public and Private Benefits Recipients - All but 137 respondents are receiving benefits of some kind. These include SSI/SSDI (163), Medicare/Medicaid (120), in-home services (42), food stamps, (17), housing subsidies (22), private health insurance (86) and pension or retirement benefits (47).

Disability Activism - Most survey respondents (352) are "Very" or "Somewhat" politically active in disability community issues. 106 answered that they are "Not Really" or "Not at all" active.

Actual Voters - Only nine people said they didn't vote in the Presidential contest. Of those, only one said the reason was difficulty in getting to the polls.

Awareness of Candidates Disability Platform Positions - The responses to these questions suggest that, in fact, the disability community did a pretty good job of getting its message out to the campaigns and they, in turn, got their messages back to the community. 327 respondents were aware of the disability platform positions of each candidate and 127 were not. In other words, this fairly was a well-informed voter group.

And they knew the positions of both major candidates almost equally well, with 319 knowing of Kerry's positions and 302 aware of Bush's. Only 81 people said they were aware of Nader's disability platform.

Did the Disability Platforms Influence the Vote? - By a majority they did, but not by much. 103 answered "yes, a lot," 157 answered that they did "a little." But 125 were "not really" influenced by the candidates' disability platforms and 62 were "not at all."

Issues of Importance - The survey asked for people's most important, second most important and third most important issues in determining their vote for president. We wanted to see if disability issues were most important to people with disabilities, or if other national issues took precedence. 86 people answered that the war in Iraq was their primary concern when they voted. 73 mentioned the economy and 55 answered that disability issues were most important. 52 mentioned healthcare and 45 responded that moral values were their preeminent deciding issue. The Supreme Court was sixth with 35 nods, right above homeland security, which was most important to 35 people. Almost half of those who answered "other" specifically mentioned getting rid of George Bush was their first priority.

For their second most important factor in deciding their vote, 110 answered healthcare. The economy was second, with 79 checks, followed by the war in Iraq with 66. Disability issues were next, with 52 people choosing them, as their second most important reasons for their vote. The Supreme Court make-up was next (42) followed by moral values (26) and homeland security (23). Again, almost half of the "others" responded that they wanted to defeat Bush.

The third most critical factor was led by healthcare (79), with the war in Iraq (69) and the economy (68) both getting about the same number of responses. Disability issues were third most important to 60 people. Moral values were the third choice for 36 people. The Supreme Court was next with 3o votes, followed closely by homeland security (29)

The Supreme Court - Although apparently not one of the three top choices for many people, the vast majority answered the next question about the importance of a likely change in the make-up of the Supreme Court with "very" (229) or "somewhat" (122) important. Only 46 said it was "not very" important and 26 answered that it was at all important. 26 didn't know if it was or was not important to them.

Will Disability Rights be Strengthened or Weakened over the Next Four Years? - The outlook for the status of disability rights in the U.S. during the second Bush administration is viewed pretty pessimistically by those who responded to the poll. Only 64 thought things will get better over the next four years. 283 think disability rights will get worse and 105 don't know one way or the other.

 

Analysis of the Responses

In order to better understand what motivated classes of respondents in their voting choices, we ran comparisons of participants' various responses against the way they also answered other questions. For example, if they voted for Bush-Cheney, how did they feel about the Supreme Court makeup and so on.

Education Levels and Candidate Preference - Democrat respondents were better educated, with 62% having a bachelors degree or higher. By comparison, only 19% of the Republican respondents had bachelor degrees. Not surprisingly, the Democratic respondents had higher income levels as well. Regardless of party affiliation, however, the more highly educated respondents leaned more heavily toward Kerry / Edwards in their voting preferences too. (With a BA or higher - 75% to 21% for Kerry, without a BA - 68% to 27% for Kerry.)

The relevance of key issues also was influenced by educational attainment. Those with less education were more concerned about "moral values" (15% to 9%) and "disability issues" (18% to 12%) as their first concerns. But the more highly educated respondents identified the "Supreme Court" as their primary issue of concern (11% to 4%).

Income and Preferences - At the same time, the wealthiest respondents (income over $100,000)were least likely to have voted for Kerry / Edwards though they still remained a sizable majority in this poll (66% to 30%). The poorest respondents (income under $16,000) supported the Kerry ticket by 75% to 18% for Bush.

The lowest income respondents also were 4 times more likely to be concerned about "disability issues" compared to the wealthiest (25% to 6%), whereas the higher income respondents were far more concerned about "homeland security" (14% to 5%) and the "war in Iraq" (27% to 8%) as their foremost issue when voting. Whether the respondents' concerns were for or against the war and the measures taken for homeland security were not determined by this poll, only whether they were important issues in making their presidential voting choices.

Political Ideology and Religion - Respondents were asked if they were religious or not and whether they would describe themselves as liberal, moderate or conservative. It wasn't a surprise that 73% of the "not religious" respondents identified themselves as "liberal" compared to the "religious" participants (49%). 2% of the non-religious respondents consider themselves to be conservative, compared to 20% of the religious survey participants. 31% of the religious respondents voted for George Bush, while only 7% of those who are not religious did. Similarly, there were fewer religious Kerry supporters (65%) than not religious (89%) among respondents.

People who are not religious were far more interested in the war in Iraq as an issue than those who are religious (26% to 15%), while the religious respondents listed "disability issues" as a concern far more than non-religious people (17% to 3%).

Political Ideology and Other Issues - Liberals were more than twice as concerned about the war in Iraq, as their primary issue, than conservatives (23% to 10%). Conservatives listed "moral values" their primary concern almost six times more often than liberals (35% to 6%). Self-identified liberals were more interested in disability issues (13% to 5%) and they were "very" concerned about the make up of the Supreme Court (60%) compared to the 35% of conservatives who were "very" concerned. And the "liberals" were "a lot" or "a little" influenced by the disability platforms of the candidates (67% cumulatively), while the "conservatives" answered that they were "not really" or "not at all" influenced by the presidential disability platforms (71% cumulatively).

Veteran Status and Candidate Preference - Not very many veterans answered the poll, but those who did were almost evenly divided in their vote (48% for Kerry and 45% for Bush), whereas the non-veterans overwhelmingly supported Kerry (75% to 22%). Of the few veterans whose disabilities were service related, %50 voted for Bush and 38% for Kerry.

Length of Disability, Activism and Issue Concerns - The longer the respondents have had their disabilities, the more active they are in disability issues and the more Democratic they are. But the shorter term disabled respondents answered that their primary concerns were about "healthcare."

Employment Status and Issue Concerns - The most significant findings relating to employment were that unemployed respondents were the most concerned about "disability issues" as their primary issue (17%) and retired people were the least interested in that (3%) as their first worry. Retired respondents were, conversely, the most concerned about the Supreme Court (22%) and unemployed people were the least interested (3%). To our surprise, those who answered with the highest percentage of interest in the issue of "moral values" were students (15%) and those least concerned with that were retired (6%).

Disability Activism and Voter Preference - As expected, those active in disability politics were far more aware of disability issues. But, in perhaps the most interesting finding for the community, the disability activists voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry (74% to 22%) while those not active in disability issues voted in the majority for George Bush (52% to 27%). Nader got almost as many votes (20%) as Kerry from the not active respondents. The activists also responded far more proactively to the disability platforms of the major candidates (68% to 30%). It seems from this poll that the message of the disability rights activists would have made more of a difference if it had been communicated more effectively.

 

Open Ended Responses

Finally, we asked survey participants if they had anything else to tell us about their vote for President. This open-ended question produced some very interesting – and often quite amusing, or bitter – responses. In no particular order, and with no political slant other than the respondents’ own voices, these are excerpts from the hundreds of replies.

  • "I did not like either choice for president. I voted for Kerry as the lesser of two evils, and held my nose."

  • "I was disgusted that so-called 'moral values' and gay-bashing took precedence over real debate. I was also disturbed that neither candidate mentioned people with disabilities in a positive way, though I think Kerry had a more thoughtful platform regarding people with disabilities."

  • "I am very disappointed with the outcome. I wish that more persons with disabilities would get involved in the political process."

  • "As long as any candidate supports the Constitution they are likely to get my vote."

  • "I am a conservative, but due to my disabilities have learned over the past few years the access and discrimination problems that still exist in this country. SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) decisions that are nothing but wrong. I actually was leaning toward voting for Kerry in the hopes it would change the make up of SCOTUS, but right before election day there was a very heated discussion on a disability listserve about Christians. The hatred that came from people towards Christians was unbelievable. I was nothing other than shocked to see first hand how much some people hate Christians. After the onslaught of hate filled emails from list members whose goals would be to silence Christians and in effect deny us our right to Freedom of Religion and free speech, I chose to vote for President Bush. I don't feel that my vote was necessarily in the best interest of the disabled community, but I could not in good conscience vote for a candidate that was being backed by people who would like to see me silenced. I refuse to hide my religious beliefs, they are part of me. I live my life for my God. I felt if what I was seeing from this one listserv was in fact how the majority of the Democratic Party felt, then I could not be a part of it."

  • "I was so fed up with all the back stabbings and lies created by Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush that I researched other candidates that were not in the limelight as much. The reason I chose Ralph Nader is because he seemed to be pretty level headed and focused on the questions in interviews. He didn't fabricate illusional realms like Kerry or Bush did. He wasn't seeking vanity either. His issues were cut & clear, precise, and he answered the questions with interest."

  • "As one person said, 'We are a nation divided,' and that person sure wasn't kidding... today, we are, a nation divided. Too many roadblocks for those who tried in vain to have their name put on the ballots and were eventually denied...while the counterpart rival's went 'neck to neck' in a race for the top position. Those rival's acted like children throwing a temper tantrum and not as a responsible adult as so Mr. Nader who knew his materials and acted like an adult, not a child. I don't think this is the example our fore fathers are suppose to strive for... it sends a wrong message to the American people."

  • "I'm scared of what will happen when our president really feels God is directing his plan for us... and I consider myself a good Christian.

  • "I'm still not over it."

  • "I did not support either candidate 100%, but there was just something I couldn't trust about Kerry. That plus the moral value was what made my decision."

  • "Usually medicinal cannabis issues would be the most important factors in who I vote for, but with a dictator and mass murderer in office, the issue of just getting rid of him and bringing some democracy back to the United States took precedence for me."

  • "I believe that good/strong foreign relations are essential and George W is an arrogant fool."

  • "Poll workers have no idea what 'accessible' means for people with disabilities, I am vision impaired and when I ask for accessible machine or anything in large print their answer was they have the information in Spanish."

  • "I thought that John Kerry would be an OK choice for president, but that Bush will be disastrous for the country on all the issues I really care about."

  • "I voted absentee, but my husband took it to the poll for me. My reason: Absentee voting insures that I can vote even if transportation problems prevent me from getting to the polls. But I don't like the feeling of being on the outside, so this gives me a little more inclusion in the process."

  • "It was like voting for Twiddle-Dumb or Twiddle-Dee. It was almost impossible to tell the difference between the two candidates. My major concern is the construct of the Supreme court with the whittling away of rights that are already on the books."

  • "I could not vote for John Kerry, as he was for assisted suicide and abortion."

  • "I hope the ADA will not be weakened with Bush policies in the next 4 years."

  • "There is nothing I like about the present administration, the Iraq killing fields, the environment, the religious fervor, the eroding of our constitutional rights. I really fear for our country."

  • "I voted Nader because he has a long reputation of fighting for the rights of individuals."

  • "I regret that we have 4 more years with a President who is determined to see that Medicaid/Medicare and Social Security is cut, and taxes lowered. We MUST have higher taxes and take care of our own here in the USA and STOP sending so much money abroad, including this useless war."

  • "I am horrified that many people with disabilities both voted against their own interests and for a very IMMORAL candidate, George Bush."

  • "I think I made the right choice but the other candidate won, but I'm proud that I vote my conscience."

  • "The disability community as a whole had very little influence on how I voted. I am an advocate and a person with a disability, but having lived with my disability for 30 years, I voted based upon the life I want to lead and I disliked the two candidates equally - I voted for Kerry/Edwards because I would have voted whole-heartedly for Edwards should he have won the democratic ticket!"

  • "It is a shame that the disabled community as a group tend to be conservative in their outlook on the world and they don't recognize the Republican double speak for what it is. For example, 'No Child Left Behind' is about forcing schools to leave children behind in the third grade who don't make a certain standard."

  • "I was unhappy with the choices I had but felt compelled to vote for Kerry even though he did not have a strong progressive stand on issues I cared about."

  • "I seriously considered voting for neither one because neither had Palestine/Israel policy position that I considered moral and just - in the end I decided I had to vote for Kerry because of the rest of his policy positions - I consider Bush to be dangerous to the health of the country."

  • "I am ashamed of the fact that apparently many people with disabilities voted for George Walker Bush. By appointing judges who are trying to weaken the ADA, by reducing the amount money for Medicaid in his budget that benefit poor people with disabilities, and for not actively supporting parity legislation in health insurance coverage for people with mental illness, how does he deserve the vote of anyone with a disability?"

  • "I am still very angry, sad, depressed, confused, and fearful about the outcome of the 2004 election. Are so many people with or without disabilities so misinformed about Bush's abysmal record on just about every policy effecting the lives people in this county and around the world or are they just stupid. How could this happen?"

  • "With Bush's re-election, I'm thinking of voting myself off the island."

  • "As a parent of a child with a disability and as a CEO of a non-profit providing supports to citizens with disabilities, I was certainly concerned with the platform of each candidate's disability related issues. However, I do not believe disability issues were going to be saved or dramatically changed in my state as a result of either candidate. I looked overall at other important issues to make my determination."

  • "During the primaries I was a Dean supporter. I never gained as much confidence in John Kerry as I still have for Howard Dean. My vote was more a vote against Bush than a confidence in Kerry. I really wish the Democratic Party would give me someone I can vote for rather than just another guy who is not as bad as the extremist from the right."

  • "Bush II will be a disaster for Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security."

  • "I voted for George Bush because I believe he will do the best job of keeping the homeland secure. Without a secure homeland, the economy, disability issues, Supreme Court, none of that matters if we cannot feel safe in our homeland."

  • "Let's recognize this for what it is - an organizing tool - and get moving! Disabled People of the World UNITE!"

  • "I'm tired of choosing the lesser of two evils. The current occupant is bad for the world, bad for the nation, bad for my Republican Party and bad for the disabled community. I am sad."

  • "I think its time that the independent living movement stops assuming that people with disabilities always vote Democratic. It would be foolish to cast an vote based solely on disability issues. People with disabilities should consider other issues."

  • "I chose the lesser of two evils, so to speak. I was against the Iraq war, but think that Kerry wasn't realistic. I think that Bush is more aware of world situations, but he has failed the environment - too controlled by fat-cats."

  • "I was disappointed and concerned about the future of affordable healthcare and medical research."

  • "Contrary to popular opinion, Republicans are extremely disability friendly, whereas Democratic platforms tend to ignore special interest groups for the better of 'all'. I believe another four years of Republican Administration will allow us to continue and further the good work we've been doing."

  • "I voted for Kerry because he is progressive. The disabled community has lived in the past for too long. It’s time that we meet up and do something. Kerry was the man to do this. Bush …did not support stem cell research which is just wrong. Until he is able to open his mind to something other then his oil we are stuck."

  • "My decision was based on the fact that the president does not see and could not admit that he has made mistakes and that he is creating a new generation of disabled veterans."

  • "I was asked by someone if John Kerry, 'was the best we could do?' And HOW DID he beat out Dean? The only thing I could say was Dean committed the offense of showing humanness and personality after his first win. I wasn't a Deaniac either."

  • "It was primarily a vote against George Bush."

  • "I knew who I'd vote for from the beginning. Nothing said during the campaign influenced me one way or the other."

  • "I just wanted George Bush to finish the job he started. I couldn't see voting for Kerry, I didn't feel positive enough to vote for him at this time."

  • "I am behind him 100%. In the bible it says God sets up the rulers and leaders and I will stand behind my president even if I don’t agree with him. It is very important to me to show National Pride and respect."

  • "Bush is a scary man."

  • "I was not happy with either of the major party candidates. We need to be more active in attracting potential candidates that will help our cause."

  • "I checked 'moral values' as my top issue; by this I meant that beyond partisan disagreements, my faith in the representative ness and fairness, as well as decency and rationality, of my government is gone... all this blither of 'moral values' is just the most effective vehicle these weasels can market their regime with."

  • "I didn't trust John Kerry. He never took a firm position and I didn't like his stand on the war in Iraq."

  • "I was very upset that most of the air time was taken with mudslinging and negative campaigning and all issues were carefully sidestepped. It was very hard to tell where the candidates stood on issues without doing a lot of digging. Something has to change or people will lose all interest in voting at all."

  • "It isn't that disability wasn't an important issue, but I felt that Kerry would have done a better job on disability issues and also on other issues that were of even broader significance to me. thus, I was not called upon to choose between someone who was good on disability and bad on other issues."

  • "My vote for president was based on a realization that our present president appears to be oblivious to the needs or people less fortunate, financially, than himself. So many people I know with disabilities have a can-do attitude no matter what the odds, but even this is often not enough to allow them to make a decent living."

  • "Once again, it feels like my vote did not count for anything."

  • "Neither party promoted their disability platform - if there even was one! Given the state of the world, disability issues/rights are far down the list and not very important or influential in any election."

  • "I campaigned and volunteered for Kerry/ Edwards. think the Iraq War was started for the wrong reason, and the Bush Administration cannot be trusted. I am impressed by Bush senior's passage of the ADA, but I see little vision for disability issues from this resident. Also, the growing deficit may hurt social programs."

  • "The Supreme Court appointments will definitely weaken disability rights. I don't think that the specific topic of 'disability issues' was the deciding factor for me. It's much bigger and broader."

  • "I didn't really even like Kerry that much but I couldn't vote for Bush after he did three things that I found really disturbing (the war, the deception and ignorance of 'no child left behind' and the homeland security thing)."

  • "Originally I was going to vote for Kerry because I needed an alternative to Bush's foreign policy, but Kerry began to weaken in his rhetoric against the war. Nader is the only one who began and ended saying the war was wrong. Also, I have a very hard time voting for pro-choice candidates, though it's not the only issue I consider. Still, if Kerry had been pro-life, he would've gotten my vote. George Bush never would have because of the war."

  • "My vote for Kerry was a qualified -- even reluctant -- one. With each election, I seem to feel that my political interests and viewpoints are not being represented by either of the two main parties. I'm going to 'bail' out of the Democratic Party soon, and am considering one of the 'third' parties. The other alternative is ... Canada ..."

  • "My top issue and concern… was social services in general, I believed that our severely compromised system would have the most to gain from Kerry. Republicans cannot seem to imagine the difficulties people with disabilities, such as myself, face and which grows more overwhelming the less amount of support we have - whether from the government, family, and/or friends."

  • "I feel it is the ignorance and delusion of those who were lead by their religious beliefs and in not seeing who our president really is and what he really stands for. Those who put this man back in office unfortunately will have a rude awakening to what he is really capable of doing to our country and it isn't going to be pretty. I'm sorry that many of those who voted him in couldn't see the man behind the mask."

  • "I am really disappointed on President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq. This was one of the reasons why he didn't get my vote."

  • "I was an 'ABB' voter -- anybody but Bush. My very strong feelings against Bush for some of his policies overshadowed other concerns."

  • "I am very worried about what will happen in our country as the current leadership continues for four more years. They are pumping fear down our throats, and people are buying into that."

  • "I am disheartened that neither candidate said anything publicly in the debates about disability, so I really didn't feel, despite what their platforms said, that either one of them felt it was a high priority."

  • "I voted pro-life because I see euthanasia affecting the disabled community as the next big step after abortion rights!"

  • "Bush is at least supporting our military and freedom and is not going to sellout out country to globalists like the socialist liberals want to."

  • "All of the things on your list of important issues were important factors in making my decision and I chose Kerry as the most likely to make improvements over the next four years."

  • "Bush is so bad in so many ways that disability issues had to take a back seat in this election."

  • "Even when George Bush voiced support for the right programs, he failed to fund them. His deeds -- or lack thereof -- spoke a lot louder than his words to me. His tax cuts and the way he has chosen to finance both the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq puts a disproportionate burden on those least able to bear it, including people with disabilities. Though I didn't list it as one of my top reasons for the way I voted, I also am concerned about homeland security. I believe George Bush's policies have made America LESS safe and have created a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists."

  • "I voted as a gay man first. At least the disabled are legally treated as equals in all 50 states. The LGBT community isn't."

  • "I didn't know the stances of either Bush or Kerry with regard to disability issues, despite wide reading of several newspapers and voter booklets."

  • "I am too disappointed to even imagine what the next 4 years will bring."

  • "Peltier in 2008. He won't be going anywhere."

  • "A good leader MUST know how to follow first and I don't believe our current president realized that."

  • "I'm very frightened now that the right holds all three houses. People need services and Bush thinks the nation can function without any services."

  • "This country was founded on a belief in God and His providence helped guide the founding fathers and protect us in the past. The ultra-liberals have increasingly tried to remove God from our society and the results are reflected in the social ills and international crises we are now experiencing. At this point in our history, the best solution to ALL of our problems is to return (as a nation) to God and seek his blessings. We need to get America back on the right track morally and that has a better chance of happening with Bush than with Kerry."

  • "I have a strong faith, but could not see voting for someone who could care less about the health and welfare of the people of this country. It doesn't cost money to support marriage, moral values or anti-abortion. Bush wouldn't support any of them if it meant higher taxes or less money to protect oil interests."

  • "I do not want a socialistic government controlled health care system nor do I want the government to intrude in all facets of life. I believe all people should work for a living and that assistance needs to come through the private sector; churches and other places rather than government mandated. I am a polio survivor who has a strong work ethic."

  • "I voted for Kerry because I am appalled at Bush's record for civil rights and in particular disability rights. His education record is disgraceful. He is going to set back disability rights for adults and children by decades... if any of us survive the cuts he'll make to the services and programs we so desperately need. God save us all."

  • "I was asked by a Democrat friend why I was voting for Bush given his position on disability issues. I told him that disability issues won't mean anything if we're all dead because of an attack and Kerry's position in that regard was crystal clear. As for President Bush's position on disability matters, I believe we are going to see more and better opportunities to strengthen the ADA under the son of the guy who signed it into law than was reported. As for the Supreme Court appointees, the cases that have been the most damaging to ADA (Sutton, Toyota, etc) were damaging because the cases were, in my opinion, weak and poorly argued. The fact of the matter is that, most of the situations where people with disabilities are being truly discriminated against are either settled before going to court - when an uninformed boss or business owner is enlightened by threat of ADA suit - or settled through mediation/arbitration when backed into a corner."

  • "I believe that the issue of health care IS a disability issue. I work with our state's Medicaid program and on health policy issues for people with disabilities. People with disabilities will never have the same opportunities to work as everyone else until health care becomes universal. The Bush health care agenda is worthless for pwd -- it's only useful for rich, healthy people!"

  • "Disability rights and non profit orgs are in for a rough ride these next four years."

  • "I voted for Kerry, but realized that I did not agree w/his value system in time after all."

  • "I am very much pro-life and this issue was most important to me in the 2004 election."

  • "I am learning another language and hope to move to Slovakia."

  • "I felt that John Kerry presented a more positive outlook and that he believed that we could do better."

  • "I despise George Bush and think he is the anti-Christ."

  • "Although disability issues concern me, the determination of this president to take away my right to marry whomever I choose via a constitutional amendment was the number one factor in my decision."

  • "I don't trust politicians, especially those like Bush. It has come down to voting for the other candidate to try to get him out of office. I feel like moving to Canada."

  • "The Democrats moved away from where they were so I left them."

  • "Kerry was more in touch with people. Bush was in touch with oil."

  • "I did not hear any of the candidates enunciate their positions on disability issues at any time."

  • "I wish I could have voted about 300,000 times in Ohio."

  • "I did not know the specific disability platform positions held by each candidate, but I knew that Bush would cut the budgets for healthcare and social needs. I was hoping Kerry would/could take health insurance out of the reigns of managed care companies and make it affordable to all."

  • "I have watched every gain made in my 50 year lifetime -- civil, environmental, even 'moral' -- deteriorate over the past our years of the Bush-Cheney regime. I see continued deterioration in the next four years. I was sickened by the exit polls that showed 'moral values' to be the number one reason people voted for Bush. I think this was a euphemism for 'religious values.' I ended up doing some research into 'moral values' and could not find one link to religion. I don't see this administration as being particularly moral, except to its own values, which does not hold well for this country."

  • "Bush was against stem cells and Kerry was for stem cells."

  • "I'm proud that I voted, it is important to me. I'm sorry that my candidate did not win, but glad that I voted for Mr. Kerry."

  • "I believe in voting for the person that would lead with the most conservative moral conscience. Everything else has to fall second to that. With two people being equal on the moral issues it is only then that I will make a voting decision on the secondary issues."

  • "Ideologues are dangerous - Bush is an ideologue."

  • "We need a president who stands up for our morals! Our country was based on a belief in God, and we need to remember that."

  • "I have a great distrust of President Bush. I do not believe he is a moral man and do not understand those that believe he is. My question is what makes him moral?"

  • "I think this war in Iraq will never end and we are losing so many of our young people. The economy with giving away such huge sums when he first became president has really hurt the USA. Not to mention now money going over there to restore what we destroyed!"

  • "I've been very active in the disabled civil rights movement since I graduated high school a few years ago. I am very passionate about issues such as polling place accessibility, equal treatment by employers, and anti-discrimination laws. However, I had to vote for George W. because of his positions on abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and same-sex marriage. I'm sorry to say that I think Bush's appointees to the Supreme Court will probably undermine and weaken the ADA; that breaks my heart. However, the judges he is likely to appoint will also be likely to uphold people's right to LIFE (and the right to life trumps the right to an accessible voting machine any day) and also uphold traditional marriage. In short, yes, disability issues are an integral part of my life, but a candidate's stance on abortion and embryonic stem cell research will always trump every other issue for me."

  • "Bush has the most integrity - strong on issues such as homeland security, economics, Iraq and moral values. All these things are important to me, right along side disability issues. President makes only a small difference in disability rights issues."

  • "Thank you Mr. Bush for the INCREASE to Medicare out of pocket costs for rehabilitation! So tragic for the elderly and disabled... anytime one has stroke, heart surgery, broken bones rehabilitation is a MUST... what was he thinking... certainly NOT about the elderly or disabled across USA..."

  • "Though I admire the efforts Bush has made to examine the issues of the disability community (President's Commissions on Excellence on Special Education in 2001 and on People with Intellectual Disabilities in 2004), I fear that his legislation is moving us backwards. Bush's education policy (No Child Left Behind) is creating some significant problems for individuals with disabilities, particularly when it comes to the rigorous standardized testing that does not relate to the individualized education plans (IEPs) of students with disabilities. Expected rates of proficiency are not realistic when schools fail to meet the standard of 'Adequate Yearly Progress' that NCLB sets forth, students with disabilities are often the first to be blamed. These policies are irresponsible and stand to cause serious harm to the efforts of the last 30 years to integrate and individualize education for students with disabilities. I would have liked to have seen John Kerry address some of these issues in the campaign, but I recognize that that the war in Iraq and the economy are more pervasive issues for our nation. I didn't feel that Kerry had a well though-out plan for addressing these issues, either, but I hoped that by voting for him I could at least help undo the most significant of the damage caused by NCLB. Unfortunately, it appears that the trend will only continue..."

  • "Bush rocks!"

  • "I wish Kerry had won! I think he would be very good on disability issues."

  • "W'04 all the way. I voted for his dad Ronald B4. I agree with the Republican platform in nearly its entirety. My only differing views are about stem-cell research, which I fully support and voted on that issue in my state election and I disagree with and their views on homosexuality, simply because I believe all people are created equal and should have the same inalienable rights.”"

  • "I'm disappointed that I had to vote for a candidate who was the least corrupt. None of the candidates were truly worth voting for regarding my concerns."

 

Conclusions

Like so many other interest groups in America, people with disabilities primarily vote for interests other than those which most directly affect them, in this case disability issues. The majority of voters with disabilities who responded to this survey were more interested in issues that also concerned the rest of America, homeland security, the war in Iraq and the economy. Assumptions that even activist members of the disability community will think and vote as a bloc is erroneous, although they tended to be more Democratic and more responsive to disability specific campaign platform positions. Nevertheless, issues of generally shared national importance contributed more to their voting choices, rather than personal or interest group issues.

Regardless of party affiliation, political ideology or their actual vote, most respondents were not optimistic about the outlook for rights of Americans with disabilities in the near future. That in itself, while not exactly earth shattering news, is a sad legacy of the recent presidential elections.

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