With the 2018 midterm elections fast-approaching, it's a good time to get yourself educated on the various races and issues that you'll be seeing on the ballot November 6. However, as a recent study from WalletHub shows, Americans' appetite for politics may be fading.
Generally speaking, presidential elections tend to get voters a little more excited about their candidates and issues than the midterms do. During the last Presidential election, a record number of voters, 137.5 million, voted in 2016. While that number sounds impressive, that's only 61% of those old enough to vote in the U.S.
During midterm elections, that number goes down. In 2014 for example, only 36.4% of eligible voters nationwide cast a ballot in their state's races.
Experts say a lot can affect voter turnout, including weather, the amount of time voters have to get to the polls, and even money. For example, only 41.4% of eligible voters who made less than $10,000 voted in the 2016 election. Compare that to families with incomes of $150,000 or greater - more than 80% of that group turned out to vote in 2016.
So, where does your state rank on the list of enthusiasm for voting on November 6?
As you might expect (and hope if these are the people in charge of running things), the people most engaged and ready to vote on November 6 live and work in the nation's capitol in Washington D.C. Maine, Utah, Maryland and Washington state round out the rest of the top five.
Residents in Maine seem to be particularly engaged and ready for the midterms as they performed especially well in all of WalletHub's ten key indicators of political engagement. The Pine Tree State ranked #1 in highest percentage of the electorate to vote in the 2014 midterms, and #2 in highest percentage of the electorate to vote in 2016.
California, the nation's most populous state, ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to voter enthusiasm. The Golden State can also claim the dubious distinction of being ranked 50th in the nation for the lowest % of registered voters for the 2016 election.
When it comes to why some states are more politically engaged than others, Ohio State University Professor Herbert Weisberg says two factors are particularly relevant.
"First, some states make it easier to vote than other states. For example, Minnesota always has a high voter turnout because it allows same-day voter registration. By contrast, some states make it harder to register and to vote. Also, some states have enacted voter-ID laws, ostensibly intended to reduce voter fraud (which is miniscule) but which also has the effect of making it harder for some people to register and vote.
"Second, voter turnout rises when there are exciting races on the ballot. In midterm elections such as 2018, turnout will be higher turnout in states with governor and/or senator contests that are expected to be close. On the other hand, states with a single dominant party usually have lower turnout because they do not have competitive races," Weisberg said.
Getting people involved in politics is easier than you think, Weisberg says. The most effective strategies are grass-roots campaigns.
"Having neighbors canvass the neighborhood helps. Nowadays, the political parties have fairly good listings of which people are likely to cast votes for them. In states that allow early voting, the parties often try to get their likely supporters to vote early," W
Some groups tend to be more engaged than others. Young people who are not yet married and do not yet have families of their own tend of have particularly low levels of political engagement, as do some minority groups.
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