Voters Don’t Care About the Midterm Elections

Should they?

Residents wait in line to pick up a ballot during early voting at the Black Hawk County Courthouse on September 27, 2012 in Waterloo, Iowa.
National Journal
Add to Briefcase
Emma Roller
May 12, 2014, 4:45 a.m.

Midterm elec­tions are the red-headed stepchild of Amer­ic­an polit­ics — no one cares about them.

A new poll from Gal­lup con­firms that the­ory, at least for this year. Fully 53 per­cent of U.S. voters told Gal­lup they are less ex­cited about vot­ing in this year’s midterms than in pre­vi­ous elec­tions, while 35 per­cent said they are more en­thu­si­ast­ic. In 2010, those num­bers were ba­sic­ally re­versed.

It’s clear that voters are not as fired up about con­gres­sion­al races as there were four years ago. But should they be? Aside from a hand­ful of in­ter­est­ing Sen­ate races — in Louisi­ana, North Car­o­lina, Arkan­sas, Alaska, and Michigan — the midterms aren’t of­fer­ing as ex­cit­ing a toss-up as ex­pec­ted. Nate Sil­ver pre­dicts that Re­pub­lic­ans are “slight fa­vor­ites” to win con­trol of the Sen­ate. And un­like in 2010, the 2014 midterms don’t of­fer Re­pub­lic­ans an op­por­tun­ity to usurp the Demo­crat­ic­ally con­trolled House. Now, it’s a giv­en.

In 2010, voters were un­usu­ally en­thu­si­ast­ic about the midterms. But that was in the midst of the tea-party up­ris­ing, when Re­pub­lic­ans were fired up about elect­ing people who would over­turn the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Four years later, not much has changed in that re­spect. GOP can­did­ates are still cam­paign­ing on their an­im­os­ity to­ward Obama­care. Even Demo­crat­ic Sen. Kay Hagan — who voted for Obama­care — is now us­ing the health care law as a whip­ping boy against her Re­pub­lic­an op­pon­ent in North Car­o­lina.

Cam­paign tac­tics may not have changed much since 2010, but voter en­gage­ment has. This time around, they just seem tired.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.