With So Many Issues Off the Agenda, No Wonder the Midterms Are a Turn-Off

Elections offer little chance of change as Republicans and Democrats steer clear of hot-button topics for party advantage

Demonstrators march in St Louis, Missouri, but police shootings and racism have been absent from the midterms.(Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Midterm elections, or as Stephen Colbert calls them “the most tedious fall chore of all”, are a strange affair. Nationwide votes without national candidates (much like parliamentary elections) where the president’s performance is on the minds of voters even when he’s not on the ballot. Turnout drops but the consequences can be considerable and the outcomes memorable: 1994 brought us Newt Gingrich and welfare reform; 2006 was the beginning of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid; 2010 was the Tea Party and Obama’s ”shellacking”.

But the forthcoming midterms seem stranger than most even when they should, theoretically, be as interesting as any. There is something at stake – a real chance the Republicans, who already have the House, could win the Senate. The key races are scattered across the country, from Alaska to North Carolina, and are close and volatile. At the time of writing there are 10 states in play, in seven of which the two parties are essentially tied.

But precious few are interested. According to the Pew Research Center, in the first week of October fewer people followed stories about the midterms than they did stories about the bombing of Isis, the secret service scandal at the White House or the Ebola outbreak. Four years ago, when Pew conducted an identical poll at the same point in the cycle, twice as many were following the elections. A poll in 2006 revealed that 70% were talking politics with their family and friends, 43% were talking politics at work, and 28% were talking about it at church.


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The percentage of 18-to-29-year-olds who say they will definitely vote in November is 23% – the lowest recorded number since the Harvard Institute of Politics started the survey 10 years ago. “Midterm elections rarely excite the general public,” wrote the Pew Research Center recently under the headline “For many Americans a ‘meh’ midterm”. “But 2014 is shaping up to be an especially underwhelming cycle for many Americans.”

Read the full article at The Guardian.

Gary Younge

Gary Younge is editor-at-large for the Guardian. He was based in the U.S. for 12 years before recently returning to London. He also writes a monthly column, “Beneath the Radar,” for the Nation magazine and is the Alfred Knobler Fellow for the Nation Institute. His new book is Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives (Nation Books).

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