Election fatigue is a real thing. In fact it is several things. In political science it most often refers to the inverse relationship between the frequency of elections and voter turnout. American elections are numerous and frequent, and since most citizens are not terribly committed to the act of voting they are highly unlikely to do it repeatedly. That's why we get "high" voter turnout between 55% and 60% for presidential elections but something in the mid-thirties for off-year elections like 2014. For things like primaries and local elections, turnout in the single digits is not at all uncommon.

The more colloquial sense of the term "fatigue" also applies, though. Election fatigue also is a real thing in the sense that we just get sick of hearing about it after a while, even if it is an election in which we intend to participate. With the nomination process and the presidential election "pregame" starting earlier every election cycle, the opportunity to be bored with it before the actual election has even started is ample. I know you find politics interesting; otherwise it's highly unlikely that you would be a visitor here. Now be honest: you're pretty sick of this election already, right? The last dozen or so articles to flit across your field of vision didn't give you the slightest urge to read them, I'm guessing. Blah blah Trump, blah blah brokered convention, blah blah Bernie Something, blah blah Hillary Clinton sucks, and on and on it goes.

It's possible that I'm projecting my own fatigue here. My perception that most people have very little left to say about the election that has not already been beaten to death is backed up by some simple data, though. After peaking early in March, Google Trends for "Trump" and "Bernie" have cratered in April. It stands to reason, as most people with any non-zero amount of interest in politics have almost certainly had all the opportunities to learn about these candidates that they need. What is left to say about any of them? In theory the GOP nomination process, which is as occluded as any recent major party nomination has ever been this late in the primary season, should have our interest peaking. Instead we're not much interested in hearing any more about a "brokered convention."

This would be fine if not for the fact that we have six full months to go, and it isn't clear how a loss of interest this early in the year will affect outcomes if at all. Many scholars of campaign effects argue that voters generally start paying attention to the election six to eight weeks before the November finish line, and perhaps that will happen once again this year. Given the overall distasteful nature of the two likely nominees, that can't be taken for granted. There is no way to test this hypothesis, but I'm confident that we could hold a Trump-Clinton general election tomorrow and achieve a result no different than we will see when it happens in November. The odds that we will learn anything new, or be paying sufficient attention to these ass clowns to notice if anything new comes up, are long.


  • If the election was only about the U.S. I wouldn't have watched the pre-election garbage from the majority of the candidates for a microsecond; but the violence and corruption exported to the world by America demands that I view your bizarre electoral process. There's only one candidate that impresses me as being based in reality in any positive sense and that's Bernie Sanders.

    Trump and Cruz can be dismissed with one word – grotesque. Hillary, so far as I'm concerned, is thoroughly owned by corporate and political interests and though not the disaster that T&C would be, expect business as usual from the usual suspects meaning that in the long run, the poor get poorer, the wars get warer and, ultimately, the world burns. But not before as much heartache misery and torture as the world's sadists can muster is inflicted on the poor, the helpless and the disenfranchised.
    Oh, and Ed., Bernie isn't an ass-clown.

  • I suspect that the way our elections have been covered by mass media in recent years also contributes to making a tiresome slog even more so – but to be fair, some news venues do a pretty wretched job of covering any story, so it may not be an election-specific issue.

    Not sure what it would take to improve that situation.

  • "distasteful nature of the two likely nominees"? You're talking about Trump and who else? John McAfee?

  • Bernie's based in reality? You really think that? Given the years of Congressional temper tantrums when President Obama tried to enact equal pay for equal work, do you really suppose President Sanders would have a chance in hell of getting free-college-for-everyone (or any of his other pie-in-the-sky ideas) passed?!

    That's my major problem with Sanders. I like some of his ideas (I'm not thrilled that he couldn't care less about "women's issues"), but even if he were elected, there's no way he'll get any of them enacted…and worse, he really seems to have no plan on how he might do this. He's very hazy on details.

    As for election fatigue; my house phone has been receiving nonstop robocalls for Republicans, and most of them are coming from spoofed numbers. We've had to turn the phone completely off (not ideal because I need to be available for my elderly parents) to get some peace.

  • Here at the local level I see yard signs but very little else for any election coverage until the local paper gives a "voter guide" about a week in advance. No chance for election fatigue on the local level. Turnout will be about 25%.

    Yes, I share your fatigue. Don't read much on Kos these days. I come here but if it's about DTrump I'll just skim it. I read the Rude Pundit for entertainment value.

    What puzzles me is the "undecided" voter. How can you, even given the level of ennui displayed by the average voter, still be undecided?

  • Skepticalist says:

    It's interesting still because it's terrifying even to an old crank like me. News coverage has gotten me past the embarrassing stage.

  • Donald Trumpet says:

    Now that the primaries are settled and it's going to be a contest between a standard-issue corrupt establishment politician and some form of loathsome crapweasel, I'm going to do my level best to tune it out completely until election day. If I can just get my wife on board with this plan, get her to turn off Chris Matthews and CNN and stop reading Daily Kos, then maybe i won't lose my sanity before November…

  • Ed, re: percentages of voter turnout. That is of registered voters, I think. The 'real' number should be based on 'folks that could be eligible to participate' as the denominator, not registered voters as the denominator. Somewhat lower (and more indicative of national participation) percentage results.

  • Eric the Infrequent says:

    I am certainly burnt on the primary news. Extra so because my state held its caucus already. Only thing of interest to me is the talk of returning to a straight primary election.

  • @doug: This site has primary turnout expressed as a percentage of *eligible* voters:


    In 2008, with competitive primaries in both parties, turnout in the Super Tuesday states was in the range 20 to 30%. That's for primaries, caucuses were typically well under 10%. And that was pretty much the peak of recent primary excitement.

    In 2012, the Republican-only primary in Virginia managed a pitiful 4.6% turnout.


    Wake me in six months– though it will be interesting to see what voter turnout's like for a contest between two of the most hated people in America.

  • At this point, I just want it to be over. The good news is that . . . wait, no, strike that. Closest we get to good news is that, as far as we know, it will, eventually be over.

    I'm just hoping that 'over' doesn't turn out to be a continuation of war by other means. There's a lot of undirected fear and anger in this country, and the idea that it staying undirected is the soft option dismays me.

  • IMO, we are losing interest because not much is likely to change this side of the conventions. Clinton will maintain a narrow lead over Sanders in pledged delegates. Trump will be very close to an absolute majority of pledged delegates, but vulnerable to party insiders denying him the nomination.

    Short of a candidate being felled by an unexpected scandal, a bizarre gardening accident, or a bolt of lightning, this is how it will be. We might as well save our energy for the conventions, which promise (particularly on the Republican side) to be a shitshow of legendary proportions.

    The odds that we will learn anything new, or be paying sufficient attention to these ass clowns to notice if anything new comes up, are long.

    I think you underestimate the ability of Trump and Cruz to achieve stunning new heights of ass-clownery.

  • @doug @Talisker

    I shared doug's misconception, but according to Talisker's link, Ed's numbers are spot on for eligible, not just registered, voters, which, given my previous assumptions, is good news (as sad as that is).

    As for primaries and locals, I live in a one-party machine town, and that's a whole different category of fatigue; more than fatigue–it's a malaise (I know, I know, at root a machine is as much culture as concrete electoral power, but in a way that makes the vicious cycle even harder to break (culture can change, obviously, but how is not so straightforward). The point is that, there, too, it's not hard to understand why people don't bother.).

  • The onion ran an article headline "Nation takes Solice from fact that Candidates taking years off own lives to Campaign"

    If you haven't seen it, it does soothe the pain when you think on it.

  • If you put a gun in my hand and told me, "Shoot this adorable kitten and you will have election seasons the length of Canada's," and there were a good chance you could deliver on it, I'd pull the trigger.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    That is a legitimate concern. Following politics in the aftermath of Obama's election, though the rise of Glenn Beck and the Tea Party, made me wistful for the election coverage itself. If the right takes a 1972-style beating from the Clintons, I hesitate to imagine how whiny and insufferable it might be from 2017 on.

  • LOL, just got a call from a blocked number–robocall announcing the speaker is Michael Reagan (Ronald Reagan's son, he informs us) and wants us to vote for Kasich. How about NO?!? I only regret that he's not calling in person so I can tell him WHY.

  • Beat people down enough and nobody's gonna care what brand of simian's on the block and up for sale, the orangutang, the howler monkey? Gotta go Rumplestiltskin on this one since leaving the country is not an option this time around for me.

  • Reports today that Cruz is vetting Carly Fiorina as a VP candidate.

    Two of the most unlikable people in history on the same ticket. This shit is just getting interesting.

  • Katydid:
    a) do you really think the Benghazi Murder Witch will fare any better than a Socialist Jew?
    b) Keystone may be dead, but there will be more Keystones and TPPs and whatnot. I'm fed up with having to fight "my" president over such issues. As waldoh said, business as usual means that the poor will get poorer, the wars will get warer, in short, the lesser evil will still be evil.

    I'll root for something better as long as there is still the slightest hope.

  • schmitt trigger says:

    A German friend of mine had this insight:

    "US presidential elections are way too important to the World, to leave the American public to decide them".

  • It's only during election season and Christmas – you know, September to January – that I'm glad to be in China. I, too, just ignore nearly all of the political coverage on the sites I read. I know if something really important happens it will filter through and I'll get the message.

  • @Laie: BENGAZI BENGAZI BENGAZI! Let's have eleventy MORE hearings on this, because she was found completely not guilty the first eleventy times! And a witch, my goodness! Are you hiding under your bed in terror?

    With Hillary Clinton, she at least has a track record of working with others and getting things done. Sanders? Is too much my-way-or-the-highway, and has gotten nothing done. But sure, hold out a candidate who's promised you your own invisible purple unicorn and a birthday party every single day, 'cuz yeah, that's totally going to happen if he's elected! Just don't count on him paying any attention to 'women's issues' like autonomy over your own body or health care, because he's said flat-out he doesn't care about that kind of stuff.

  • @Katydid / @Laie: Come on now, no need to argue. You're both right (and wrong). Bernie has promised a whole lot of pretty unlikely stuff, and sometimes says pretty ridiculous shit. Hils is a corrupt, hypocritical, racist, warmongering monster in a lot of ways. If elected, neither will be free to govern. The ridiculous obstruction of the last eight years will continue, and probably get worse. Neither will have any realistic chance of 'fixing'… Anything, really.

    Like our election down here in Oz (and pretty much every national election, ever), your choice here is between living downwind-from- a-tyre-fire and living *inside* a tyre fire. Have fun deciding!

  • @Eau; the carefully-orchestrated meme is that Hillary Clinton is corrupt, etc. etc. etc., but the truth? Her life has been under a microscope since 1992 and nobody has been able to find anything true. As I posted awhile back, the lunatic fringe insisted she killed Vince Foster about 11 different ways, each crazier than the last, and lost money on real estate investments which PROVES she's guilty of…of…well, she's just guilty! Don't ask quesitons! Don't think critically!

    Bernie, on the other hand, is being criticized for things he's actually said and done (and not-done), just on the campaign trail.

  • One of the major electoral reforms I've been arguing for and deserves pushing through Congress – if sane people ever get control of that place – is to have the entire election process – filing, nominating, primarying, debating, fundraising especially – only be held within the year of election itself.

    Force it so that nothing can even get started until Jan. 2nd of the year the office is up for vote. Have the major debates start in mid-April. Have all the primaries for the President's race held on the same day, preferably in late May so that all 50 states can get covered with negative ads.

    Dear God, we've got people NOW planning out fundraising for 2020. This is wrong and insane.

  • Gotta second Katydid. The Republican meme about Hillary's awfulness was started to keep her from pushing a single-payer-ish health plan in the mid-1990s. Honestly, people, it's just stupid to fall for that shit if you're not odd enough to be a Repub.

    Jill Abrahamson, who was executive editor at the NYTimes for years, spent a lot of that time investigating the Clintons. Their real estate deals, marriage, Vince Foster, endless stories of corruption, yadda, yadda, yadda. Her conclusions based on actual data:

    "There are no instances I know of where [Hillary] Clinton was doing the bidding of a donor or benefactor."


    "Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy."

    The evidence is on one side here and the memes are on the other. We're the reality-based community, remember?

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