The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Americans are bored with the 2014 election — except where it matters

A woman receives a kiss from President Obama at a rally to support Gov. Pat Quinn in his re-election campaign in Chicago, Oct. 19, 2014. Quinn is in a tight race with Republican Bruce Rauner. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

Across the country, Americans have greeted the 2014 election with a giant "meh."

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows just 68 percent of registered voters say they are following the election at least "somewhat closely." It was 71 percent earlier this month. Oh, and it was 76 percent in the 2010 midterms and 78 percent in 2006.

But while Americans in general aren't that interested, that's not really the whole picture. What you have to remember is that the 2014 election is basically being decided in nine states holding competitive Senate races. And in these states, the enthusiasm is there.

Across these nine states (which are simply our top 13 races minus Alaska and three seats that are primed to flip to the GOP) 81 percent of people say they're following election news at least somewhat closely. Across the other four-fifths of the country, only 66 percent say the same.

If you're a Democrat, that's some reason for hope. It suggests that the apathy that is gripping the rest of the country is less likely to take hold in key states. And given Republicans are benefiting from a sizeable edge in enthusiasm, high turnout is good for Democrats.

But then we come to another data point in these nine states: the generic ballot. When asked whether they favored a generic Republican or a generic Democratic for the U.S. House, the GOP leads among likely voters 50-44.

But the split is much more pronounced in the nine battleground states -- 57-39 -- than in the rest of the country, where it's about evenly split, 48-45 for the GOP.

Of course, the generic ballot is only so valuable. It asks about unnamed Republicans and Democrats running for the House, not the known quantities who are running for Senate. Meanwhile, these Senate candidates have been on television for months, and just about every one of the nine battleground races are within the margin of error in statewide polling, despite the generic ballot.

But when it comes to undecided voters across these 10 states, it's pretty clear that a strong majority of them are going to be favoring Republicans on the generic ballot and probably voting Republican in their congressional district.

It's up to Democrats to convince them to split their tickets.

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