In the run-up to this year's midterm elections, we were curious to know what our readers were thinking.
We received hundreds of responses to our call through the simple form we posted on our website and via comments on social media. We read through every response in an effort to glean the primary motivations driving respondents to the polls this year. We landed on six key categories, and we highlight responses in each one below.
The categories are: Specific Issues and Policies, those who named their primary motivator as a specific issue or policy; Civic Duty, those who think about voting, first and foremost, as a duty and privilege; Local Issues, those who express a desire to vote for (or against) a specific candidate in Massachusetts, or one of three statewide ballot questions; Stop President Trump, those who are primarily motivated to register their disapproval of the president; Restore Checks & Balances, those who are eager for greater partisan balance in the federal government; and Uphold American Values, those who express a desire to protect values such as freedom and dignity.
What we've shared here is representative only of the people who took the time to respond to our questionnaire. This is not a random survey like a public opinion poll, and because it was self-selecting, respondents not only chose to take part but could also choose whether or not to answer questions about specific topics. Respondents were older and less diverse than the general population. They were also predominantly from Massachusetts (where WBUR is located), though we did receive feedback from states including Texas, Nebraska and Oregon.
We hope that in reading and listening to what's shared below, you'll learn something new or see a reflection of your own experience. The responses have been edited for clarity and space.
Voting Is My Civic Duty
"I vote as an expression of democracy and against complacency. If I don't vote, I'm part of the problem." -- Deborah Sosin, 64, of Watertown, Mass.
"Voting is the easiest way for me to have my voice be heard. I don't have to donate, call or volunteer — just show up!" -- Catherine Hoyt, 32, of Waltham, Mass.
"Casting an (educated) vote is the least I can do to be an active member of a democratic society." -- Jake Bies, 28, of Boston, Mass.
"My grandmother was one of the first women to register and vote in Waterbury, Conn. My family hasn't missed an election since." -- Lew Zackin, 71, of Newton, Mass.
Restore Checks & Balances In Our Government
"Our government needs more women. They bring rational, problem-solving, consensus-building minds that this country desperately needs." -- Kate Tomkinson, 57, of Big Sky, Mont.
"Overwhelming desire to return the direction of our country to a more centrist position. I would love to see Democrats and Republicans discussing our nation's issues and working towards solutions not feuds." -- Katherine Wolfe, 66, of East Bridgewater, Mass.
"We need a Congress that will fulfill its constitutional responsibility of being a check on the executive branch, not the current collection of frightened legislators who clearly put their own personal political interest above that of the country." -- Tim Brown, 68, of W. Va.
"It's my duty to vote, and I always do. If I need a motivator this election, it's for a return to sanity and balance the extremism we are currently experiencing in our country." -- Alice, 63 of Plymouth, Mass.
"Voting allows me to respect a range of views. As voters we determine when we as a nation want to push the pendulum back when it swings too far." -- Julie Hauer, 55, of Natick, Mass.
"Voting will not solve all of our problems and we need to be very clear about that! Still, voting offers one avenue for citizens to encourage the changes that our country desperately needs in order to create a fairer and saner society." -- Michael Kanter, 67, of Somerville, Mass.
Specific Issues And Policies
"I'm voting because the climate crisis is a threat to the existence of Boston and to human civilization across the world. Superstorms, drought and catastrophic sea level rise will cause tens of millions of climate refugees ... my generation is going to be left with an uninhabitable planet." -- Daniel Vernick, 21, of Belmont, Mass.
"I want to elect leaders that will support the Affordable Care Act, advocate to overturn Citizens United and reduce gerrymandering across the state and country." -- Julia Susuni, 26, of Brookline, Mass.
"I'm motivated by fear and rage at the speed and venom with which our commitment to diversity, social safety net, and environment are being attacked. But I'm also motivated by hope, by the commitment and clear vision of a new generation of political activists willing to step up and create the incremental change that ultimately creates radical transformation." -- Julie Wittes Schlack, 64, of Cambridge, Mass.
"I will vote for people who are eager to confront the existential threat that climate change poses to the Earth's ecosystems and are undaunted by the profound political and economic changes that will accompany a just transition to a sustainable future free of fossil fuels." -- Fred Hewett of Cambridge, Mass.
Stop President Trump
"Although a liberal, in the past I might have at least considered voting for a Republican candidate in some cases, but no more." -- Pam Welty, 60, of Ashby, Mass.
"I became a citizen last month so I could vote and that is what I am going to do. I am voting to reduce the harm that Donald Trump is doing to this country." -- Alan Clarance, 55 of Framingham, Mass.
"The xenophobia and ignorance of the Trump administration must be stopped. With my vote, I will fight back." -- Matthew Donohue, 19, of Kingston, Mass.
I'm also motivated by hope ... by new generation of political activists willing to step up and create the incremental change that ultimately creates radical transformation.Julie Wittes Schlack
"I always vote and encourage my friends to do so as well, but this year it is really about electing representatives who can begin to undo all of the damaging social, fiscal and regulatory policy changes the Trump administration has made. All while countering fascism and extremism." -- Jonathan Ochsner, 27, of Omaha, Nebraska
"I will vote to stump Trump and get back to the business of lifting people up, not putting them down." -- Sue Perez, 60, of Bedford, Mass.
"I voted early — for Democratic congressional candidates — both to curb a GOP that no longer serves the national interest and to open a needed conversation on whether to impeach Donald Trump." -- Rich Barlow, 59, of Belmont, Mass.
Local Issues On The Ballot
“We know the federal government is poised to continue its attacks against transgender people, and we absolutely must preserve the rights we have secured at the state level.” — Carol Rose of Lexington, Mass.
"I am voting this November because I am very happy with my Massachusetts state government and I want to see these same men and women in charge: specifically, Charlie Baker and Maura Healey." -- Ryan Gelly, 24, of Braintree, Mass.
"I'm sick and angry at my rights, and those of my loved ones, being eroded day by day under our current regime. I'm voting to protect my transgender friends especially." -- Stephanie Tyll, 34, of Framingham, Mass.
Uphold American Values
"Our core values as a nation are being eroded. We need a majority of principled elected officials in Congress who will act on the critical issues of these times based on these values." -- Muriel Finegold, 83, of Boston, Mass.
"I will vote because too many groups are being marginalized and we need to speak up for all of humanity. We need to remind our government to respect all humans." -- Bristol Leiper, 34, of Stoneham, Mass.
"We need to combat greed, lack of understanding of others, demagoguery and loss of civility. We need to make policy at home and abroad that brings people together rather than sets them against one another in a zero-sum 'game.'" -- Lynn Goldsmith, 68, of Watertown, Mass.
"I'm voting to protect our democracy and the common good, whether that is our public schools, access to health care, public transportation, the judicial system, civil rights, racial justice, and truth itself." -- Lisa Guisbond, 60, of Brookline, Mass.
If you haven't had the chance yet to share your reason for voting on Nov. 6, it's not too late. Submit your answers in the form on this page, or simply add your voice in the comments section below. We'll be keeping an eye out for additional opportunities to share readers' opinions.
Essays and editorials related to the midterm elections have occupied a fair share of space on our pages at Cognoscenti in the last two years, since Donald Trump was elected. Regardless of which political party prevails, it will be a pivotal election for the country during a deeply divided moment in our history.
Thank you for sharing your stories with us.