American’s entered this midterm election day with significantly less interest than in recent elections, according to a new survey from Gallup. Roughly 4 in 10 Americans claim to have given “quite a lot” or “some” thought to this election, while 58 percent signal that they are certain to vote in today’s election.
Gallup also notes that voter enthusiasm has again dipped after two cycles of above-average engagement. There are now more voters (48 percent) who say they feel less enthusiastic, than those who say they feel more enthusiastic (40 percent).
And the number of voters that report they absolutely do not plan to vote is up 7 percent over the 2010 midterms — 27 percent now say they have no intention of participating in this election.
Even among partisan voters, the core of support for the Democrats and Republicans, voter enthusiasm has returned to the long-term average after two midterm cycles of growing interest. Interest among independents, according to Gallup, is off by roughly a quarter.
The takeaway? Gallup seems focused on the independents, pointing out that with neither party effecting “major change,” the independents that normally lean GOP or Dem have little reason to get to the polls and make a choice.
But the problem extends beyond the independents. In a country that, for a variety of reasons, makes voting a chore for many of its citizens, voters need to believe electoral results have consequences — ones discernable to Americans in their day-to-day lives. Voters who have been promised change (whatever that means to any individual), but get more of the same, start to wonder why they made the effort.
The sad part of the equation is that, while this may not result in a favorable outcome for citizens, it often does just fine by the candidates. Smaller electorates are easier to manage for many incumbents, making messages easier to craft and elections easier to sway with strong turnouts in small, hardcore base populations.
New voters mess with that strategy, but new voters are also some of the most likely to sour on their experience, should efforts at he polls fail to translate into changes in their lives. While registrations drives do an admirable job of getting new eligible voters on the rolls, perhaps organizers should also pay attention to keeping voters returning to the polls.