Are voters already tuning out the presidential election?

New numbers from a national study show that voters aren’t as interested in the current presidential race as in recent years, and they don’t particularly like the candidates as in the past.

Republican presidential candidates (IowaPolitics.com photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In fact, data from the Pew Research Center shows that overall presidential election interest in July was at its lowest level in 12 years, despite constant coverage in the media.

The Pew survey was taken just before GOP contender Mitt Romney’s trip to Europe and Israel.

The number that grabbed the most headlines was a 51 percent to 41 percent lead for President Barack Obama, when people were asked nationally whom they would vote for.

But underneath the top line information were signs of voter apathy and cynicism.

About 52 percent of those polled had a negative opinion of Romney, and 45 percent had a negative opinion about Obama.

The combined negative rating for Obama and Romney was higher than any presidential race since 1988. (Pew didn’t have data for races prior to 1988.)

More concerning for the candidates: Voters aren’t as interested in the campaign rhetoric as in recent years.

Pew says 61 percent of potential voters were following the campaign in July 2012, compared with 74 percent in 2008. (Only 46 percent of voters were following the Bush-Gore race in July 2000.)

A separate study from Gallup shows similar numbers about voter disinterest in the current presidential campaign.

Gallup shows overall voter enthusiasm at 44 percent in July 2012, compared with 48 percent in 2008 and 59 percent in 2004.

The polling company also shows higher voting enthusiasm among Republicans than Democrats.

One backlash from lower voter interest levels could be in the lucrative business of campaign television advertising.

Because of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporations and interest groups can spend unlimited amounts on national political television ads.

But unlike 2008, a huge amount of television viewing is now done on DVRs, where people can literally tune out political ads.

Experts say one of every four TV ads this fall to be political in nature.

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