Off-Year Voter Turnout Trends Since 1950

Midterm election turnouts are always significantly lower than on presidential election years. This is a natural byproduct of what voters perceive to be a less significant election, so no one is surprised by low midterm turnout.

However, this cycle, candidates and consultants alike were surprised at the very low turnout in 2014. A mere 36.4% of eligible voters actually voted.

Such a low voter turnout has not occurred since World War II. In the 1942 midterms, turnout came to 33.9% of eligible voters. One would think that the same cycle that set campaign expenditure records would also have turned out more voters. The opposite seems to be true. Record high expenditures seemed to only be able to produce a little bit of involvement.

Here is a comparison of midterm election involvement since 1950:

1950: 44%
1954: 44%
1958: 45%
1962: 48%
1966: 49%
1970: 47%
1974: 39%
1978: 39%
1982: 43%
1986: 39%
1990: 40%
1994: 42%
1998: 39%
2002: 41%
2006: 41%
2010: 42%
2014: 36%

These figures definitely demonstrate significant variance in voter turnout during midterm election cycles. However, it is fascinating to realize that just over 42 percent of eligible voters on average determine who our elected officials are.

Not only was this year’s turnout incredibly low, but turnout is just low in general. Only two people in five, roughly, make their voices heard about who will govern them. This country is truly run by a minority of its overall population.

(Reposted from