Sidelined or Mainstreamed? Political Participation and Attitudes of People with Disabilities in the United States


  • All data are public, and the programs used to generate results are available from the authors. We thank Doug Kruse for valuable discussions and assistance. Funding for the disability module for the 2006 General Social Survey was provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, Grant No. H133B980042–99, and the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. Funding for the disability module on the Maxwell Poll of Citizenship and Inequality was provided by a BBI Innovation Grant to Professor Jeffrey Stonecash of the Maxwell School on Citizenship and Public Affairs. The authors wish to thank Peter Blanck and James Schmeling of Syracuse University and Tom Smith of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago for their work in arranging the General Social Survey disability module, and Professor Stonecash for arranging the Maxwell Poll disability module.

Direct correspondence to Lisa Schur, School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers University, 50 Labor Center Way, New Brunswick, NJ 08901 〈〉.



We examine whether people with disabilities are part of the political mainstream, or remain outsiders in important respects, by studying political participation and the underexplored topic of how disability relates to attitudes toward politics.


We analyze new disability measures on the 2008 and 2010 Current Population Surveys voting supplements, and two other nationally representative surveys for 2006 and 2007.


Citizens with disabilities remain less likely than nondisabled citizens to vote. While there are few differences in political preferences and party affiliations, people with disabilities tend to favor a greater government role in employment and healthcare, and give lower ratings on government responsiveness and trustworthiness.


People with disabilities continue to be sidelined in important ways. Fully closing the disability gap would have led to 3.0 million more voters in 2008 and 3.2 million more voters in 2010, potentially affecting many races and subsequent public policies.