The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Americans hate Congress. They will totally teach it a lesson by not voting.

Temple University student Ashley Rooney, 19, emerges from a voting booth at the Dendy recreation center in North Philadelphia, Pa., after voting on Nov. 4, 2008. (Dominic Bracco II/For the Washington Post)

Americans are angry at Congress -- more so than basically ever before. So it's time to throw the bums out, right?

Well, not really. In fact, Americans appear prepared to deal with their historic unhappiness using perhaps the least-productive response: Staying home.

A new study shows that Americans are on-track to set a new low for turnout in a midterm election, and a record number of states could set their own new records for lowest percentage of eligible citizens casting ballots.

The study, from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, shows turnout in the 25 states that have held statewide primaries for both parties is down by nearly one-fifth from the last midterm, in 2010. While 18.3 percent of eligible voters cast ballots back then, it has been just 14.8 percent so far this year. Similarly, 15 of the 25 states that have held statewide primaries so far have recorded record-low turnout.


This is all the more depressing when you realize that, less than 50 years ago, primary turnout was twice as high.

But, really, this isn't all that new. As you can see above, turnout has been dropping steadily for years.

What's perhaps most notable, though, is the partisan difference. Republican primary turnout overtook Democratic turnout for the first time in 2010, and that difference is even bigger this primary season.

In fact, GOP primary turnout has been pretty steady over the past four decades, but Democratic turnout has dropped consistently -- including by about 30 percent this year, from 8.7 percent to 6.1 percent. That's the biggest decline on-record.

This is hardly the first warning sign when it comes to Democrats' turnout problem (see here, here, here and here). But if it portends anything close to what's coming in the 2014 election, that's really, really troubling for Democrats.

More than that, though, the poll reinforces that, no matter how upset people are with Congress, they still aren't really feeling the need to do much of anything about it. Some might argue that they feel powerless to affect real change, but failure to even vote suggests they're not really interested in trying -- or maybe they're not really all that mad.