Most readers of IR follow politics closely but with different perspectives and levels of understanding because most of us have limited time to devote to the study of bills and candidates.
But we know there is another universe of Americans who do not follow politics and who almost never vote in elections. I thought that the 2012 election between Obama and Romney would be closer than it was. It might well have been closer if Hurricane Katrina had not frozen the Romney campaign in place just days before the election and given Obama beneficial publicity to appear presidential for several days in managing the response to the storm while Romney was out of the news almost entirely.
In the end, even though there was an increase of eight million new eligible voters on the rolls in 2012, the number of people who voted declined by five million from 131 million voters in 2008 to 126 million in 2012. The turnout percentage of eligible voters voting was down in every state and DC with the only exceptions of Iowa and Louisiana.
So far the 2016 election looks to be very strange because both major party candidates appear to have such high negatives with the public. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll published last week probed how American voters feel about both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. A majority of voters expressed negative feelings about both leading candidates. Traditionally, a fair number of partisans on either side of the aisle express negative opinions about the other party's candidate, but the latest poll found that a majority of voters express negative feelings about both leading candidates.
Sixty percent said they either "dislike" or "hate" Clinton, while slightly more — 63 percent — expressed negative opinions about Trump. Forty percent said they "admire" or "like" Clinton, and 36 percent said they "admire" or "like" Trump.
The math in the Electoral College is very complicated and it is possible in theory that even in a two-way race neither candidate might win the 270 Electoral Votes required to be elected president. If no one gets to 270, then the Constitution provides that the election would go to the U.S. House of Representatives where each state regardless of population gets only one vote under a unit rule.
Republicans have the majority of members in 33 state delegations and Democrats have the majority in 16 states and the state of Maine is tied with one House member from each party. The members of the House may vote for anyone they like regardless of who was nominated by the parties, or results in the popular vote, or the Electoral College results. This potentially gives a great deal of power to the House Republicans to elect anyone they can agree on.
Unlike the vulnerable GOP majority in the U.S. Senate this year, the GOP maintains a good chance of keeping the overall House majority and the majority of delegation members in 33 states which is a majority in the House to decide who wins.
But millions of Americans will not care enough to vote at all and thy give more power to those who do take the time to vote. There are two schools of theory about the effects of a very negative campaign. One is that a negative campaign will energize base voters and increase partisan turnout. But the other school holds that to much negative advertising drives turnout down for both candidates. This will be a good year to test both theories.