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Wed Nov 5, 2014, 01:37 AM

Voter turnout always drops off for midterm elections, but why?

Interesting report by Pew Research back in July predicting just based on turnout projections that Democrats would likely lose Congressional seats. In addition, far from being a hinderance, in Presidential election years, President Obama's coat tails helped Democrats by expanding the electorate. However, in midterms, those new voters don't show up.


With three-and-a-half months to the midterm elections, it’s still unclear the extent to which Republicans’ advantage in voter engagement will translate into more actual House and Senate seats. But we’ll go out on a limb on two predictions: A lot fewer people will vote this year than did in 2012, and Democrats are likely to suffer accordingly.

Voter turnout regularly drops in midterm elections, and has done so since the 1840s. In 2008, for instance, 57.1% of the voting-age population cast ballots — the highest level in four decades — as Barack Obama became the first African American elected president. But two years later only 36.9% voted in the midterm election that put the House back in Republican hands. For Obama’s re-election in 2012, turnout rebounded to 53.7%.

Who turns out to vote and why is of much more than academic interest. In an era of increasingly polarized politics, campaign strategists must decide how much effort to put into persuading independent-minded voters to come out and support their candidate without antagonizing their party’s core supporters, who are more likely to vote anyway. Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012 were largely due to his campaign’s success in expanding the electorate — inspiring new voters and increasing turnout among blacks.

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In any event, if 2014 follows the trend Democrats are almost certain to lose seats in the House and Senate this November, and many pollsters predict as much. As Knight notes, since 1842 the President’s party has lost seats in 40 of 43 midterms — the exceptions being 1934, 1998 and 2002. (Whether Republicans will pick up enough Senate seats to take control of that chamber is a much closer question.) And as Campbell concluded in his paper, “For the congressional candidates of the president’s party, the return to normalcy at the midterm represents a loss.”

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Reply Voter turnout always drops off for midterm elections, but why? (Original post)
TomCADem Nov 2014 OP
customerserviceguy Nov 2014 #1

Response to TomCADem (Original post)

Wed Nov 5, 2014, 01:58 AM

1. It's much easier for the electorate

to focus on a presidential race. Hell, most Americans would be hard pressed to name both their Representative and both Senators, but a vast majority of the people can name those running for President every four years. They come out to vote for the candidate that they most identify with, and while they're at it, they vote a straight party line.

No big marquee candidate, and participation drops off. Sad, but true.

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