Family Fact of the Week: Americans Take to the Polls on Marriage and Life

Sarah Torre /

Whatever the outcome of today’s elections, Americans can be sure of nonstop electoral analysis and number crunching from pundits and pollsters for at least the next few weeks. Charts and maps and graphs will plot who voted and how they cast their ballots. If past data is any indication, however, we can be sure that at least a majority of Americans will venture to the polls.

As data on Heritage’s shows, a majority of Americans have taken the time to vote in presidential elections over the past three decades, with roughly two in three U.S. citizens casting votes in the 2008 election cycle. This year, as in many other elections, bridging the “gender gap” and garnering the vote of American women has been a major focus of both presidential candidates’ campaigns. According to, women were more likely than men to cast ballots in both the 2008 and 2010 elections. Over 60 percent of female citizens voted in the 2008 presidential election, while just over 55 percent of men did the same. (continues below chart)

For many Americans who will participate in the democratic process this week, the choices before them go beyond just a selection of local, state, and federal leaders who will make future policy. Voters in a large majority of states will have the opportunity to voice their support or approval for ballot measures that could have immediate policy impacts on their families and communities. Those decisions will range from approval of municipal projects to the use of taxpayer dollars for elective abortion to the definition of marriage in state statutes and constitutions. Below are just a few of the ballot measures before voters today that could have immediate policy ramifications:


Learn more about the state marriage ballot initiatives:

Parental Consent of Minors’ Abortions

Physician-Assisted Suicide

Recognizing the unique and important right afforded U.S. citizens to participate in free elections, many Americans are expected to cast votes in this year’s presidential election. Whether it’s selecting policymakers and leaders or deciding deeply important questions like the definition of marriage and parental involvement in minors’ decisions, the ability of citizens to freely engage in the democratic process without fear of reprisal is vital for maintaining civil society.