“Don't Vote—It Only Encourages
The words appeared on a chalkboard outside a London pub the day after
Margaret Thatcher called the 1987 general election, but they might just as
well be the motto of half or more of the American electorate in 2006 as
well. Deep into a midterm election campaign in a time of war and economic
worries—a campaign that could change control of one or, conceivably,
both houses of Congress, and that will set the stage for the next
presidential election—disenchanted voters far outnumber political
enthusiasts. Between 60–70% of poll respondents say the country is
“on the wrong track,” and roughly the same percentages say
they are “dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United
States.” “Wrong track” responses are more common among
non-registered voting-age respondents than in the population as a whole.
Neither party in Congress enjoys a net positive assessment by the public.
The Pew Research Center regularly asks, “Regardless of how you feel
about your own representative, would you like to see most members of
Congress reelected in the next congressional election, or not?” In
June of this year 29% answered “yes” and 57%
“no”—a major change from October of 2000 when 40% said
“yes” and 34% responded “no.” Despite these levels
of apparent alienation, and the sizeable stakes in play this year, there
are few signs that voter turnout in 2006 will rise above the dismal levels
traditionally associated with midterm federal elections.