Whether you’re living on Planet Trump or firmly planted in Camp Hillary, voting in the next election could be vital to bridging the digital divide. In the 2012 presidential election, it was estimated that only 57.5% of the eligible U.S. population came out to vote. States that have a high voter participation rate also have a higher number of internet users, and while internet access does not fully depend on voter turnout, elected officials could help areas that need broadband access the most. HSI has created a map that estimates the percentage of 2016 internet users, using data from Internet World Stats, to see the correlation with the voter participation rate from 2012.

 

Top 5 States: Highest voter turnout, highest % of Internet users

Wisconsin

Voter Turnout: 72.9%

Internet Users: 94.3%

New Hampshire

Voter Turnout: 70.9%

Internet Users: 99.9%

Maine

Voter Turnout: 69.3%

Internet Users: 94.1%

Massachusetts

Voter Turnout: 66.2%

Internet Users: 98%

Washington

Voter Turnout: 65.8%

Internet Users: 97.4%

Bottom 5 States: Lowest voter turnout, lowest % of Internet users

West Virginia

Voter Turnout: 46.3%

Internet Users: 80.1%

Oklahoma

Voter Turnout: 49.2%

Internet Users: 77.2%

Texas

Voter Turnout: 49.6%

Internet Users: 78%

Arkansas

Voter Turnout: 51.1%

Internet User: 75.9%

New Mexico

Voter Turnout: 54.8%

Internet Users: 77.3%

 

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States that Need Internet Access the Most

Places with high poverty and unemployment rates need help bridging the digital divide. Generally, people who live in the deep south, rural areas, or low income neighborhoods are falling behind in education, jobs, and technological literacy due to lack of broadband access. Mississippi has the least amount of internet users in the country along with one of the worst averages for peak internet connection at 37 Mbps (the highest is Delaware at 75 Mbps).

The Bureau Labor of Statistics’ report from May 2016 showed that five of the bottom ten states ranking for internet coverage also had the highest unemployment rates in the country. Louisiana had an unemployment rate of 6.3% and only 77% of their population use the internet. Other states with high unemployment rates and a low amount of internet users included Mississippi (5.8%), Alabama (6.1%), New Mexico (6.2%), and West Virginia (6.2%).

In 2015, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Louisiana also had some of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country. In 2013, Obama launched the ConnectED initiative that strives to bring teachers and students the best technology in every part of the country. ConnectED’s studies show that around 40% of schools in the U.S. have access to broadband internet. Moreover, the new generation of kids are now learning to code at a much younger age which could make the gap expand rapidly within the next few years.

 

States with Poor Voter Turnout

There are a handful of states that have some of the lowest voter participation rates in the country that also have the lowest rate of users (WV, TN, AR, TX, OK). Conversely, states like Maine, New Hampshire and Wisconsin have a high voter turnout and high percentage of internet users. New Hampshire, Maine and Wisconsin all ranked in the top 13 for lowest poverty rate in the country, and consequently West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma fell into the bottom 11 (Texas was in the bottom 11). Most of the states with low voter participation rates also fell into the bottom half for slowest internet in the country.

On the other hand, Michigan has one of the highest voter participation rates and rank 28th for internet coverage, and its citizens in the city of Detroit are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and unemployment. Cities like Detroit need to have more of a proactive approach from city officials and the surrounding community. There are many factors attributed to our nation’s poorest areas including income inequality, racism, violence, and drugs. However, it is hard for citizens to make progress in these areas without access to high speed internet.

Although most rural areas are specifically affected by lack of broadband access, some of the most rural states in America including Maine and New Hampshire have the highest percentage of internet users in the nation. Therefore, it is possible to provide rural parts of the country with the internet speed they need.

Access to broadband means access to a wealth of knowledge and opportunities, which allows people to apply for a better job and seek out a better education, and many cities with a high unemployment rate show a strong correlation to a lack of broadband availability. It calls into question what government officials in states like Michigan are doing to help citizens who fall on the wrong side of the divide.

 

Political Officials and Business Leaders Working to Bridge the Gap

It takes people who lead our cities and states to affect policy and ignite change. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the mayor of Baltimore, implemented the Smarter City Task Force to help increase broadband connectivity in a city where 20% of its citizens have no internet at all. Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner at the FCC, is constantly fighting to help communities which lack internet and broadband connectivity: “When it comes to the most vulnerable in our society, we cannot have, nor can we afford to have a disconnected community.”

Lee Rainie heads Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project which brings awareness through research and data to hold internet service providers and government officials accountable.

Investigative journalist, Darnell L. Moore, took a trip through the rural areas of Mississippi, plagued with lack of internet access, to highlight Dr. Robert Gallardo’s mission to bring broadband to rural citizens. However, states need more help from government officials and business leaders who have the capabilities and resources to help bring people into the digital age. Dr. Gallardo states,
“if you guys mobilize your elected officials at least you can get the conversation started, because it is clear to you, and like any other rural community, the carrier just won’t do it.”

There’s people who spread awareness and then there’s people like Estella Pyfrom. Pyfrom set out on a mission to provide internet access to communities absent of technology resources through her project, Estella’s Brilliant Bus. The brilliant bus will be wrapping up its year long Brilliant Minds Tech-Innovation Tour at the end of July.

As Mignon Clyburn puts it, “it’s imperative that we ensure low-income Americans can reap the benefits of 5G and are not left in digital darkness.” The UN has declared high speed internet a human right, and therefore it should be accessible by all citizens of the United States to create equal opportunity across all regions. Moreover, figure out if you are getting the best internet in your area by comparing service providers. It is up to your community to mobilize elected officials to fight for faster internet connection.

 

Voter Turnout by State  (2012)

1 Minnesota 76.4%
2 Wisconsin 72.9%
3 New Hampshire 70.9%
4 Colorado 70.7%
5 Iowa 70.6%
6 Maine 69.3%
7 Maryland 67.3%
8 Virginia 66.6%
9 Massachusetts 66.2%
10 Washington 65.8%
11 Michigan 65.4%
12 North Carolina 65.4%
13 Ohio 65.1%
14 Oregon 64.2%
15 Montana 63.5%
16 Florida 63.3%
17 Delaware 62.4%
18 New Jersey 62.3%
19 Missouri 62.2%
20 District of Columbia 61.6%
21 Connecticut 61.4%
22 Vermont 61.2%
23 Nebraska 61.1%
24 Idaho 61.0%
25 Louisiana 60.8%
26 North Dakota 60.4%
27 South Dakota 60.1%
28 Pennsylvania 59.5%
29 Georgia 59.3%
30 Illinois 59.3%
31 Mississippi 59.3%
32 Wyoming 59.0%
33 Alaska 58.9%
34 Alabama 58.6%
35 Kansas 58.3%
36 Rhode Island 58.0%
37 South Carolina 56.8%
38 Nevada 56.5%
39 Kentucky 56.2%
40 Utah 56.1%
41 Indiana 56.0%
42 California 55.8%
43 New Mexico 54.8%
44 New York 53.5%
45 Arizona 53.0%
46 Tennessee 52.3%
47 Arkansas 51.1%
48 Texas 49.6%
49 Oklahoma 49.2%
50 West Virginia 46.3%
51 Hawaii 44.5%

 

Internet Users Ranking (2016)

1 New Hampshire 99.9%
2 New Jersey 99.8%
3 Utah 99.6%
4 Connecticut 98.3%
5 Massachusetts 98.0%
6 Oregon 97.9%
7 Washington 97.4%
8 Alaska 95.5%
9 Wisconsin 94.3%
10 Maine 94.1%
11 Hawaii 93.9%
12 Maryland 93.5%
13 Idaho 93.4%
14 Minnesota 93.3%
15 Vermont 92.9%
16 New York 92.6%
17 Rhode Island 92.1%
18 Delaware 91.4%
19 Nebraska 91.2%
20 Nevada 90.9%
21 Colorado 90.8%
22 California 90.6%
23 Wyoming 90.2%
24 Kansas 89.7%
25 Florida 89.6%
26 Arizona 89.2%
27 Illinois 89.2%
28 Michigan 89.1%
29 Pennsylvania 88.4%
30 Virginia 88.4%
31 Iowa 88.1%
32 Ohio 87.2%
33 District of Columbia 86.95%
34 Georgia 87.0%
35 North Dakota 86.3%
36 Montana 83.7%
37 Indiana 83.5%
38 South Dakota 82.9%
39 Tennessee 82.9%
40 Missouri 82.3%
41 North Carolina 81.6%
42 West Virginia 80.1%
43 Kentucky 78.2%
44 Texas 78.0%
45 New Mexico 77.3%
46 Oklahoma 77.2%
47 Louisiana 77.0%
48 South Carolina 76.2%
49 Arkansas 75.9%
50 Alabama 73.9%
51 Mississippi 67.4%

 

Internet Users by State (2016)

Alabama 73.9%
Alaska 95.5%
Arizona 89.2%
Arkansas 75.9%
California 90.6%
Colorado 90.8%
Connecticut 98.3%
Delaware 91.4%
District of Columbia 86.95%
Florida 89.6%
Georgia 87.0%
Hawaii 93.9%
Idaho 93.4%
Illinois 89.2%
Indiana 83.5%
Iowa 88.1%
Kansas 89.7%
Kentucky 78.2%
Louisiana 77.0%
Maine 94.1%
Maryland 93.5%
Massachusetts 98.0%
Michigan 89.1%
Minnesota 93.3%
Mississippi 67.4%
Missouri 82.3%
Montana 83.7%
Nebraska 91.2%
Nevada 90.9%
New Hampshire 99.9%
New Jersey 99.8%
New Mexico 77.3%
New York 92.6%
North Carolina 81.6%
North Dakota 86.3%
Ohio 87.2%
Oklahoma 77.2%
Oregon 97.9%
Pennsylvania 88.4%
Rhode Island 92.1%
South Carolina 76.2%
South Dakota 82.9%
Tennessee 82.9%
Texas 78.0%
Utah 99.6%
Vermont 92.9%
Virginia 88.4%
Washington 97.4%
West Virginia 80.1%
Wisconsin 94.3%
Wyoming 90.2%

 

Voter Turnout by State (2012)

Alabama 58.6%
Alaska 58.9%
Arizona 53.0%
Arkansas 51.1%
California 55.8%
Colorado 70.7%
Connecticut 61.4%
Delaware 62.4%
District of Columbia 61.6%
Florida 63.3%
Georgia 59.3%
Hawaii 44.5%
Idaho 61.0%
Illinois 59.3%
Indiana 56.0%
Iowa 70.6%
Kansas 58.3%
Kentucky 56.2%
Louisiana 60.8%
Maine 69.3%
Maryland 67.3%
Massachusetts 66.2%
Michigan 65.4%
Minnesota 76.4%
Mississippi 59.3%
Missouri 62.2%
Montana 63.5%
Nebraska 61.1%
Nevada 56.5%
New Hampshire 70.9%
New Jersey 62.3%
New Mexico 54.8%
New York 53.5%
North Carolina 65.4%
North Dakota 60.4%
Ohio 65.1%
Oklahoma 49.2%
Oregon 64.2%
Pennsylvania 59.5%
Rhode Island 58.0%
South Carolina 56.8%
South Dakota 60.1%
Tennessee 52.3%
Texas 49.6%
Utah 56.1%
Vermont 61.2%
Virginia 66.6%
Washington 65.8%
West Virginia 46.3%
Wisconsin 72.9%
Wyoming 59.0%