With less than two months until the presidential election, a Gallup poll shows that voter engagement is down from 2008 and 2004.
"Sixty-four percent of Americans say they have given quite a lot of thought to the 2012 presidential election, a slightly lower percentage than Gallup measured in July of 2004 and 2008," Gallup reported. "But Americans are much more engaged in the current election than in the 2000 election."
Ben Goldfarb, executive director of Wellstone Action, joined The Daily Circuit Friday. His organization has several programs focused on engaging voters.
"That does mirror what we're hearing and seeing," he said. "There are some sectors and segments that are highly engaged and some folks who have yet to tune in in a really big way.
"When there is a level of urgency and a real choice, and folks really have a sense of what's at stake, and they can really imagine and see how the election going one way or the other can make a difference in their own lives -- that's when turnout is high and we think there's a good chance that's going to happen again this year."
The Wellstone Action program believes voter engagement starts well before the political conventions, Goldfarb said.
"We don't just do voter engagement in the last week or weeks, or even couple months before an election," he said. "What we've found is yes, there is a boost of interest and engagement in people, there is a point in which people make the space and time in their lives to really think about and make a decision about what they want to do in an election.
"But for it to really work and to really engage people who are sort of on the margins of participation, the best way to do it is to be talking to folks in an ongoing consistent way starting even the year before an election."
Michael McDonald, professor of government and politics at George Mason University, also joined the discussion. While we're discussing a potential drop in voter turnout in November, he said it's important to look at the bigger picture.
"In the last century of American politics, we're actually bumping up on the high end of turnout," he said. "While we may be talking about a slight decline from 2008, whether or not that happens or not, we're not talking about a wholesale collapse of turnout. We would still be, with over 60 percent, on the high range of turnout over the past century of American politics."
Jillian, a caller in St. Cloud, said she considers herself an engaged voter for the first time this election cycle.
"I've voted since I was 18 and always thought that meant I was an engaged voter," she said. "But it wasn't really until the anti-marriage amendment was introduced in Minnesota this year that I now feel I am an active, engaged voter. As a strong supporter for marriage equality, I am actually out now volunteering and having conversations and fundraising about something I think is such a personal issue for so many Minnesotans."
The state's ballot will ask Minnesotans to vote on an amendment that would define marriage in the state constitution as between one man and one woman.
On the blog, Mark said the candidates still need to prove how they will change anything for Americans.
"I think that people are less interested because they do not feel that much will change regardless of the outcome," he wrote. "The candidates need to go out of their way to make the debates interesting in order to win over apathetic viewers. Although the policy differences are out there, the personal appeal of a candidate during a debate can change people's minds."