Hope for better turnout in November?

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It is Primary Election Day in Florida and voter turnout will barely crest above twenty percent.

Is there hope for better turnout in November? A new report from Gallup says ‘Yes.’

In the last five midterm elections, voter turnout has exceeded 40% when Congress’ approval rating was low, but turnout was below 40% when Americans were more approving, writes Jeffrey Jones. 

Congressional job approval, currently 13%, is on pace to be the lowest it has been in a midterm election year. Moreover, a near-record-low 19% of registered voters say most members of Congress deserve re-election. This latter measure shows a similarly strong relationship to voter turnout as does job approval.

Voter turnout in midterm elections has ranged narrowly between 38.1% and 41.1% since 1994, considerably lower than the 51.7% to 61.6% range for the last five presidential elections. But 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. The correlation between turnout and congressional approval since 1994 is -.83, indicating a strong relationship.

The disapproval-turnout link is a fairly recent phenomenon. From 1974 — the first year Gallup measured congressional job approval — until 1990, there was only a weak relationship between turnout and approval, with turnout higher when approval was higher, the opposite of the current pattern. But that weak relationship was driven mostly by the 1974 midterm elections, when turnout was among the higher ones for midterms and Congress was relatively popular after the Watergate hearings that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation that summer.

The pre-1994 congressional landscape was characterized by Democratic Party dominance of Congress, as it enjoyed a 40-year reign as the majority party in the House of Representatives until the 1994 elections.

More data from Gallup here.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.