Despite the attention on the mid-term races, few elections are competitive. Electoral competition, already low at the national level, is in decline in state and primary elections as well. Reformers, who point to gerrymandering and a host of other targets for change, argue that improving competition will produce voters who are more interested in elections, better-informed on issues, and more likely to turn out to the polls.
On October 27, the Brookings Institution—in conjunction with the Cato Institute and The Pew Research Center—presented a discussion and a groundbreaking survey exploring the attitudes and opinions of voters in competitive and noncompetitive congressional districts. The survey, part of Pew’s regular polling on voter attitudes, was conducted through the weekend of October 21. A series of questions explored the public’s perceptions, knowledge, and opinions about electoral competitiveness.
The discussion also explored a publication that addresses the startling lack of competition in our democratic system. The Marketplace of Democracy: Electoral Competition and American Politics (Brookings, 2006), considers the historical development, legal background, and political aspects of a system that is supposed to be responsive and accountable, yet for many is becoming stagnant, self-perpetuating, and tone-deaf. Michael McDonald, editor and Brookings visiting fellow, moderated a discussion among co-editor John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute, and Andrew Kohut and Scott Keeter from The Pew Research Center, who also discussed the survey.