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Record-Low Turnouts Likely as Voter Enthusiasm Drops to 20-Year Low

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

It is a midterm election year, which means voter turnout is likely to be lower than a presidential election year, but there is a chance Americans could see record-low turnouts nationwide as enthusiasm among voters has dropped sharply in the last two years. In fact, according to a recent survey, enthusiasm among American voters has dropped to a 20-year low.


a poll published on Monday, May 12, Gallup reports that 53 percent of Americans say they are less enthusiastic about voting than they were in previous elections. This is up from 37 percent in 2010. The percentage of Americans who say they are more enthusiastic dropped from 52 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in 2014.

Essentially, the lack of enthusiasm among voters in 2014 matches the level of enthusiasm voters had 4 years ago.

Reports that 2014 could be a good year for Republicans may be the reason GOP voters are more likely to be enthusiastic than Democrats, but overall even members of the Republican Party are not that excited about the November elections -- at least, not as excited as they were in 2010. Fifty percent of respondents who said they are Republican or tend to lean toward the Republican Party during elections say they are less enthusiastic than usual about voting. This is up from 28 percent in 2010.

Meanwhile, 55 percent of Democrats and voters who tend to lean toward the Democratic Party say they are less enthusiastic -- up from 44 percent in 2010. While there was a larger increase in the number of Republicans/Republican leaners who said they are less enthusiastic than usual about voting, net enthusiasm among Democrats/Democratic leaners is -23 (32% more enthusiastic vs. 55% less enthusiastic) -- a much larger deficit than their counterparts (net enthusiasm at -8).

Engagement in elections is driven by motivation and motivation is driven by perception. Only 26 percent of Americans say they have given some degree of thought to the 2014 midterm elections. The media is more interested in covering the 2016 presidential election than they are elections happening in the current year, which has altered perception in the past. However, while this will change as November nears, more Americans are likely to stay home this year on Election Day.

The 113th Congress is the most polarized and least productive in modern U.S. history. Lawmakers place partisan politics ahead of listening to what the American people want and passing pragmatic legislation to alleviate some of the nation's biggest issues. Nothing is getting done in Washington and Americans are frustrated. Congressional approval remains below

10 percent.

The major parties have abandoned the American people, but the current system leaves many voters feeling like they have no alternative to turn to -- no real choice.

The Gallup poll even looks at the issue through the lens of "Republican versus Democrat." Voters are categorized as Republican, Republican-leaning independents, Democratic-leaning independents, and Democrats. When a majority of Americans believe neither major party represents them, the options they are given is enough to keep enthusiasm low -- and quite frankly it is depressing to think about. American voters feel hopeless that the status quo can change because the current system is designed to preserve the status quo.

How can Americans feel enthusiastic about elections when they are not adequately represented? Why would they want to become engaged in a process that assures they will continue to be insufficiently represented?

Photo Credit: AP

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