The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Who doesn’t care about politics? People who would otherwise vote for Democrats.

Young people like Katy Perry. Voting? Not so much. (Wade Payne/Invision via Associated Press)

We like to think everyone in the United States reads The Fix at least once daily. Unfortunately, the data tell a different story. In fact, as we discussed this morning, a striking percentage of the American public can't even name their most basic constitutional rights.

But there's a difference between a lack of a civic understanding and complete apathy. And this latter group is a particularly interesting (non)political animal.

So just who are these monsters? A new political typology study from the Pew Research Center refers to them as the "bystanders." These are the 10 percent of Americans who aren't registered to vote and don't really follow political news. Almost all of them (96 percent) have never made a political contribution in their lives.

Put plainly: They really don't give a rip. And their apathy is hurting the Democratic Party.

So why do these people matter? Because politics is as much about who doesn't participate as who does.

American politics is dominated by the wealthy, the old and the educated — because they're the ones playing the game. The "bystanders," as you might imagine, are not wealthy, old or educated. They're also disproportionately Hispanic.

Hispanics' share of the "bystanders" (32 percent) is about 2½ times as large as their share of the entire population (13 percent), and young people's share of the most apathetic group (38 percent) is nearly twice their share of the populace (22 percent).

These "bystanders," as a whole, also tend to favor the Democratic Party and a liberal ideology — to the extent that they even care, of course.

So it's pretty clear which side this apathy hurts the most. And as much as this apathy is representative of the larger Hispanic and youth vote in 2014, it shows the difficult task Democrats have in turning out what should be their base.

Unfortunately for Democrats, these folks are too busy playing "Call of Duty" and reading about Miley Cyrus to care.

From Pew's report:

Asked about their interest in a number of topics, 73% of Bystanders say they have no interest in government and politics, and two-thirds (66%) say they are not interested in business and finance. So what topics do interest them? Health, science and celebrities: 64% of Bystanders are interested in celebrities and entertainment (vs. 46% of the public). And, in a sign of their youth, they are drawn to video games: 35% call themselves a “video or computer gamer” (vs. 21% of the public).

If Democrats could get these groups to care a little less about Tom Cruise and a little more about Ted Cruz, maybe they'd have a better voting coalition for the midterms.