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Election 2014

Did the American people use the midterm election as a mechanism through which to express their very low levels of trust and confidence in the government and in Congress? There is scant evidence to reply "yes" to that query.

President Barack Obama made an interesting comment in the middle of his post-election press conference last Wednesday. He said: "Still, as president, I have a unique responsibility to try and make this town work. So, to everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you. To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too". Then, later he came back to the theme saying: "…part of what I also think we've got to look at is that two-thirds of people who were eligible to vote just didn't vote."

Pundits' and news commentators' fixation on who is going to win control of the House and Senate in the midterm election is a secondary issue to many Americans, who are more concerned with what is going to happen to their government after the election. Pundits should be estimating the probabilities that the institution of Congress, as a whole, is going to be fixed, regardless of who wins control.

Republican candidates and independent groups working on behalf of Republican candidates in various Senate and other races this year have spent considerable cost and effort on the campaign tactic of connecting Democratic candidates to President Barack Obama. Their thinking centers on the assumption that this connection of a candidate to an unpopular president will benefit of the Republican candidate in the race.

A new poll released by the Harvard University's Institute of Politics (IOP) reports an increase in support for the Republican Party by likely millennial voters. The report concludes that among 18- to 29-year-olds who are likely voters -- those who say they will "definitely be voting" in November - 51% say they prefer a Republican controlled Congress, while 47% prefer a Democratic Congress.

As noted by my colleague Jeff Jones in his recent review, Americans' collective thought given to this election is lower than has been the case in the two most recent midterm elections in 2010 and 2006. Likewise, enthusiasm and self-reported motivation to vote are also down. The differences are particularly large compared with 2010, with a drop of 13 percentage points in thought given to the election, 18 points in motivation to vote and a drop of nine points in enthusiasm.