There are many ways American citizens can participate in the political process other than voting. Although voting is the most popular form of participation, it is still not heavily practiced. In the United States, only fifty to sixty percent of the population votes in presidential elections and forty two percent in congressional elections. This is the result of low voter turnout rather than apathy. Although voter turnout is low, other forms of political participation have increased. This paper will discuss the participants and their impact on the political process through various activities.
The numerous activities which can be performed for a political purpose can entail things like wearing a pin or planting a sign with a candidate's name on it, to taking part in a violent overthrow of the government. These, along with contributing money, circulating and signing petitions, attending meeting of governing agencies, and being a part of a political party or interest group are likewise forms of political participation. The people involved in these activities include voters and non-voters of all ages, races, backgrounds, and denominations. Participation does not require voter registration, which is the primary reason for low voter turnout, or any political backing. They are merely people with concerns and opinions using their first amendment rights. .
There are six basic categories of participants: totally inactive, voting specialists, parochial, communalists, campaigners, and complete activists. The totally inactive, which consists of twenty-two percent of the population, fail to participate in any politics. Nearly the same percentage of the population is voting specialists. Voting specialists are those who regularly vote but do little else. Parochial participants neither vote nor engage in community activity, but do contact public officials concerning personal matters. Communalists are nonpartisan people who take part in community activities.