There are over 110 days until the November election, give or take a few hours. But a majority of Americans have already had enough of it: In a recent Pew survey of 4,602 American adults, 59 percent said they feel "worn out by so much coverage of the campaign and candidates."
It's hard to blame them. The 2016 campaign seemed to kick off right around when the votes were tallied in 2012. And when we finally put this year's election to bed on Nov. 8, all we have to look forward to is 2020 election coverage, which will begin on approximately Nov. 9.
Majorities of every demographic group surveyed by Pew are already exhausted by the election: 54 percent of seniors and 67 percent of millennials. Sixty-two percent of women and 56 percent of men. Sixty-two percent of whites and 54 percent of nonwhites. Nearly identical proportions of Republicans (54 percent) and Democrats (55 percent).
Americans aren't exhausted because they don't care or aren't interested — in fact, it could be because they care about this election too much. Pew's polling shows that record-high numbers of Americans (80 percent) say they've thought about this election "a lot" — fewer than half of Americans said the same about the 2000 election, for instance.
Similarly, a record-high percentage (74 percent) of Americans say that when it comes to making progress on the important issues facing this country, it really matters who wins this election. Again, back in 2000, just 50 percent thought that.
Pew's polling also shows that 77 percent of Americans say this election is "interesting." Four years ago, only 39 percent of Americans said the same.
Much of this interest probably stems from the decidedly unconventional campaign run by Donald Trump, who secured the GOP nomination by breaking pretty much every political rule, making fools of smart people and providing a platform for racial grievances that have been shut out of mainstream political discourse for decades.
But the 2016 campaign is proving the wisdom of the curse of "interesting times." We're exhausted by the coverage, but we can't look away. It's 11 p.m., you're about to finally put down your phone and call it a night, but then the headline flashes across your screen — the outrageous boast. The jaw-dropping proposal. The sick Twitter burn. And you're sucked back into the political maelstrom.
Part of all this is a function of a primary process that drags on for months. One way to shorten the four-year campaign cycle would be to simply hold a national primary election sometime in the summer, before the party conventions.
Polls show a majority of voters would be fine with this: a 2012 Suffolk University poll found that 54 percent of American voters preferred a national primary system, versus 35 percent who liked things the way they are.
A national primary is a different beast than a national presidential election. There would be a lot more candidates, for instance, making it possible that the result would be a winning candidate with only a plurality of votes and not a large mandate for victory. Beyond that, naysayers grumble that a national primary would give an edge to whoever had the most money and could flood the airwaves with the most ads.
On the other hand, it's not clear that's worse than the present situation. Donald Trump had more votes cast against him (over 15 million) in the primaries than for him (closer to 13 million) this year. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton's victory surprised few, considering the huge fundraising lead she's enjoyed practically since Day 1.
But with neither the parties nor Congress interested in changing primary rules, it's likely that election fatigue will be with us for the foreseeable future.