- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2002

A report by the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate finds that Democratic voter registration continues to decline, while more people are registering for third parties or as independents.
The report also predicts a low voter turnout for tomorrow's midterm elections and finds that although Americans feel unease about the economy, they do not have the anger or fear that has driven voters to the polls in the past.
"The economy has not yet jelled" as a driving force in this election, said committee Director Curtis B. Gans. "It's not propelling people with the same anger and unhappiness as it did" in 1982 and 1992, when it backlashed against the party controlling the White House, he said.
Still, he said, unease with the economy could boost voter turnout slightly, as could the high number of close, competitive races.
Mr. Gans predicted that turnout tomorrow will go up "a percentage point or two," even though it will still be low. In 1998, 35.3 percent of the voting-age population showed up to vote.
Mr. Gans said that in general, "a race that's 50-50 now if turnout goes up, the Democrats will win; if turnout goes down, the Republicans will win."
Based on registration figures from 13 states and the District of Columbia, the report, released late last week, found that Democratic registration fell to 30.1 percent of the voting-age population from its 1998 level of 32.2 percent, marking the ninth straight midterm election decline for the party.
Only Maryland and Washington, D.C., registered more Democrats this year than in 1998.
Mr. Gans said Democrats are losing some of their conservative supporters in the South to the Republican Party. He also said fewer were registering with the party, because Democrats "are defining themselves by polls and therefore don't have a durable message" and because "they're defining themselves to the middle class," which means they're losing support with two other important Democratic constituencies: the poor and the young.
Slightly fewer people registered Republican this year than in 1998: 22.7 percent, down from 23.2 percent. Mr. Gans said Republicans are gaining members in the South but losing elsewhere in the country, "because they are moving to the right and the country is not."
He said the big winners are third parties and independents. Those registering with third parties or as independents increased from 14.3 percent of the voting-age population in 1998, to 15.7 percent this year. It has steadily increased through the years and is up nearly eightfold from the mere two percent who registered with third parties in 1962.
Mr. Gans said third parties are picking up members who are disillusioned with the two major parties. The shift is partly because of people becoming increasingly frustrated with the political gridlock of the two parties and tired of feeling that their votes do not make a difference, he said.
The committee is a Washington-based, nonpartisan research institution that focuses on issues involving citizen engagement in politics.
The committee report said low voter turnout is partly due to the "unprecedented level of spending on attack ads" and that "nothing has been done to address the myriad of issues that have caused turnout to plummet steadily" since 1966.
There are slightly more than 200 million Americans eligible to vote, but at least 120 million will not do so, the report said.


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