If “democracy is on the ballot,” why don’t voters seem to care?



“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the major stories and debates of the day.

What is happening

Since the January 6, 2021 assault on the United States Capitol, Democrats have consistently argued that former President Donald Trump and his Republican Party supporters pose a unique threat to the stability of American democracy.

Despite all of these warnings — and the presence of on ballots across the country — voters don’t seem to be addressing perceived threats to the electoral system as a key issue in November’s midterms.

It’s not that they don’t believe the threats are real, but they largely see them as less important than other issues. In a statement released earlier this month, 71% of voters said they thought democracy was in danger, but only 7% said they saw it as the most important problem facing the country. .

Part of the reason for the disconnect is that a significant portion of those worried about the validity of the election are Republican voters who bought into Trump’s thoroughly debunked claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent. But even among Democratic voters, protecting democracy consistently ranks lower than issues like the economy and inflation.

Many election experts say there are good reasons to believe Democrats’ concerns about the future of American democracy are well-founded. In addition to documented efforts by Trump and his allies to cancel the 2020 election, about 60% of Americans will have one, according to a tally compiled by FiveThirtyEight. Some of these candidates are running for positions such as , and , which would give them significant power over how elections are conducted in their states if they were to win. There have also been a number of reports detailing how and could be preparing to undermine voting procedures next month.

Why there is debate

If the fate of American democracy itself is on the ballot, as Democrats have repeatedly warned, then why do voters seem to be prioritizing other issues?

The explanation most frequently offered, by experts from all political persuasions, is that voters always place the most emphasis on issues that directly affect them. They say inflation, crime, gas prices and other things people experience in their daily lives resonate more than abstract concepts like democracy.

Many leftist pundits have also argued that in the two years since Trump tried to nullify the election, Americans have grown increasingly desensitized to the GOP’s undemocratic actions. Others criticize the news media for treating the campaign to undermine democracy as just another partisan issue that should be viewed with the same “both sides” focus as debates over tax rates and politics. health care.

Many Republicans that the 2020 election was robbed. But even among the minority of conservatives who accept Joe Biden’s victory was legitimate, there is a widespread view that Democrats have overstated the danger the GOP poses to democracy — to the point that voters have largely ignored them. Others on the right argue that Democrats have lost any opportunity to make their case by allowing issues like inflation and crime to become such dominant issues.

And after

Most Republican candidates who decline the election are running for seats in dark red precincts and are . But some of the biggest races are in swing states like Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada and are expected to be extremely close on Election Day.


Many voters see Trump as the only real danger to democracy

“As we’ve seen throughout this campaign cycle, Democrats are trying to run against Donald Trump, who hasn’t been in office for 21 months. But that won’t be enough when portfolio/table issues cookers wipe out everything else, especially in the races for the Senate and House.—Joe Concha,

Americans have gradually become numb to the threats facing democracy

“Something bigger is going on here than just the usual political turnover, or even the idea that voters are more driven by wallet issues than by amorphous issues like a potential future need for an abortion. Voters adapt to authoritarianism. And that doesn’t portend a bad outcome for Democrats in November; it suggests that America’s democratic future is in serious jeopardy. —Jill Filipovic,

Many voters lost faith in US elections years ago

“The bottom line is that democracy itself is widely seen as so broken that Trump’s deliberate effort to smash it through an act of insurrection is accepted by an alarming percentage of the population as yet another warning light. They see it as nothing more important than ineffective anti-inflationary policies rather than a unique threat to our system of self-government.—Ed Kilgore,

Few voters measure the threat to democracy

“Liberal democracy will only return if people are willing to fight in its name. The problem is that many who grow up living in peaceful and prosperous liberal democracies begin to take their form of government for granted. —Francis Fukuyama

It shouldn’t be surprising that voters aren’t convinced by Democrats’ warnings

“Why are Americans more concerned about inflation than about the dire predictions of the partisan press and its ersatz counterparts in MAGA-world? Because, reasonably enough, they believe only one of these problems is real. —Charles CW Cooke,

Overuse has turned warnings into a meaningless cliche

“The phrase ‘threat to American democracy’ is so common these days that it makes almost no sense.” —Emily B. Finley,

Democrats failed to keep the issue top of voters’ minds

“While the president has claimed Trump ‘MAGA’ fans have embraced ‘semi-fascism’ and some Democratic campaigns have run ads warning against an autocratic GOP, Democrats are running much harder on the reversal of the right to abortion by the conservative majority of the Supreme Court and their new law. certain prescription drug costs. —Stephen Collinson,

The media does not make the danger clear to voters

“The results of next month’s vote will determine whether there will be any real elections in the future. … And yet, these issues are almost entirely absent from mainstream political reporting and, apparently, from the minds of swing voters who will decide control of Congress and statewide offices across the country. —Ryan Cooper,

The media treated the attacks on democracy as another partisan debate

“Because the media tries to cover both parties equally critically, the history of American politics today is often portrayed as an extreme Republican party versus an almost equally extreme Democratic party dominated by overeducated elites who are hostile to the values ​​of the mean”. Americans and left them with little choice but to vote Republican. But it is an attempt to turn a unilateral problem into a bilateral problem. — Perry Bacon Jr.

Voters always prioritize concrete issues that directly affect them

“Americans these days — and especially swing voters who are watched and wooed so assiduously — are overwhelmed with abstract ideas, distant crises, or issues set to materialize in the future. With few exceptions, they focus on the here and now. Pocket issues. Quality of life issues. Better schools. Safer streets. Cost of living.” —Nicolas Goldberg,

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Photo illustration: Yahoo News; Photos: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

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