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Sunday, March 24, 2024

Political Experiences of Autistic Adults

 In The Politics of Autism, I write:  "Support from the general public will be an important political asset for autistic people. Another will be their sheer numbers, since a larger population of identified autistic adults will mean more autistic voters and activists."

Alison U. Tassone, Kaitlyn E. Breitenfeldt, Elizabeth A. DeLucia, Jordan Albright, and Christina G. McDonnell.A Pilot Study of Political Experiences and Barriers to Voting Among Autistic Adults Participating in Online Survey Research in the United States.Autism in Adulthood.ahead of print

Background: Political participation is an important and meaningful aspect of civic engagement for adults. Existing research suggests that disabled people face barriers to political engagement. However, very little is known regarding how Autistic adults engage in politics in the United States.

Methods: Participants included 276 self-consenting Autistic adults (including those with a diagnosis and self-identified) and 361 non-autistic adults. Participants completed an online survey regarding political attitudes, barriers to voting, engagement methods, and affective experiences between December 2020 and January 2021.

Results: The majority of self-consenting Autistic adults in this online sample were registered to vote and identified themselves as part of the Democratic party and as very liberal. On average, Autistic adults most strongly supported policies surrounding disability rights and education. Overall, Autistic adults experienced greater barriers to voting than non-autistic adults. When adjusting for demographic differences across groups, the strongest group differences were that Autistic adults reported greater barriers to voting due to mental health difficulties, fear of crowds, and fear of leaving the house. Autistic adults engaged in politics more through social media outlets and through signing petitions relative to non-autistic adults, but reported engaging less through watching political debates, watching the news, and reading about politics in print newspapers, although effects were not maintained after adjusting for demographic differences. When asked about the current political climate, Autistic adults reported higher negative emotions (feeling upset, nervous, and afraid) than non-autistic adults. Demographic factors (age, gender, and income) related to political experiences.

Conclusion: Results of this study suggest self-consenting Autistic adults face significant barriers to voting and have unique experiences related to political participation. Future research to improve and support political participation among Autistic adults is a critical research priority.