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
Emma Roller
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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.

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