The lower Congress sinks, the more voters may vote

McClatchy Washington BureauAugust 25, 2014 

The U.S. Capitol

TISH WELLS — McClatchy

Could voter disdain for Congress motivate more people to turn out this November? Could be.

A new Gallup study suggests that in recent elections, disapproval of Congress’ job performance meant higher turnout. Currently, Gallup’s congressional job approval is 13 percent, with 19 percent of registered voters saying members of Congress deserve re-election.

Voters may feel they can effect change, since in 1994, 2006 and 2010 control of the House of Representatives changed parties.

“There has been a clear pattern of turnout being on the higher end of the midterm year range when Americans were less approving of Congress,” said Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones in the Gallup study.

“Since 1994, voters may have a greater belief that they can change the federal government and its policies by their choices of members of Congress in midterm elections. That belief in turn may help drive up turnout when voters feel a change is needed.”

More from Jones:

“Voters likely feel a change in government is needed this year, given their historically low congressional approval ratings. Past patterns suggest this should lead to above-average turnout in the midterm elections this November. But there may be less consensus this year on what that change should be, given the divided control of Congress. In some recent elections, one party was clearly vulnerable to voters' wrath when they were upset with Congress because that party had control of the presidency and both houses.

“If many voters see little possibility of changing the partisan makeup of government after this fall's elections -- given that a divided government is already in place and almost certainly will be after the elections -- there could be no increase in turnout this year despite Americans' frustration with Congress. However, if voters have designs on changing the government and see a good chance that they can do so -- perhaps by voting against incumbents of both parties -- then turnout may rise, as in similar past elections.”

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