As Political Disenchantment Soars, Lines At The Polls Grow Shorter

Recommended by Dr. Michael White, Updated on October 25th, 2018
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hide captionAn official assists a voter at a polling station inside Fort Garrison Elementary School in Pikesville, Md., on primary day, June 24. As in many states this primary election season, turnout was low in Maryland.

An official assists a voter at a polling station inside Fort Garrison Elementary School in Pikesville, Md., on primary day, June 24. As in many states this primary election season, turnout was low in Maryland.

Several new surveys show voter interest is low, anti-incumbent sentiment is high, and voters from both parties are questioning whether their elected leaders should return to Congress next year.

In short, the electorate is disengaged and disgusted with politics.

Voter turnout in the 2010 primaries was only about 18 percent, and now it's even lower. Less than 15 percent of eligible citizens cast ballots in the 25 states that have held statewide primaries this year, according to a new report from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate.

"Turnout is low because the American people are deeply discontented and disenchanted with American politics," explains Peter Wehner, a Republican analyst. "The country is in bad shape it's in bad shape economically, and the world is aflame. There's a sense that we're the victims of events rather than in control of events."

Washington's current state of paralysis doesn't help, either, says Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

"Gridlock is at an all-time high," he says. "The productivity of Congress is at an all-time low, and many Americans are asking themselves: How much difference does it make who the people are and what the party balance is if nothing seems to change, election after election?"

Though Washington gridlock isn't new, low-interest elections are a departure from recent years. In 2006, Democrats and independents were fired up against the Iraq War and President George W. Bush, while in 2010, Republicans and independents reacted strongly against President Obama.

"I would describe [2014] as a slog; essentially people are not focused on this election," says Curtis Gans, director of CSAE. "With the exception of strong partisans in each party, people are not engaged."

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As Political Disenchantment Soars, Lines At The Polls Grow Shorter

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