WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2010 -- Texas native Darrell Worthy has loyally cast ballots for Democrats in every election since he reached the legal voting age in 2000. But the self-described "progressive voter" said he's not going to vote today.
"It's a protest toward the inefficacy of what Democrats have done with their power," the 28-year-old college psychology professor told ABC News. "They've controlled both houses [of Congress] and the presidency, and I thought they could have done a lot more."
Never mind health care reform, financial regulatory reform, or an economic recovery package many economists say eased the recession. Worthy and voters like him, who were swept up by Democrats' message of "change" in 2008, have apparently been frustrated by Washington's slow progress and are now among the ranks of voters choosing to stay home.
"Non-voters are far more Democratic in their political leaning, more likely to favor activist government, including the health care legislation, and more likely to approve of Obama's performance in office," said Scott Keeter of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, which compiled a comparison of attitudes between 2010 voters and non-voters for ABC News.
Fifty-four percent of non-voters this year identify themselves as Democrats, compared to just 30 percent who align with Republicans, the Pew survey found. Non-voters are also overwhelmingly more likely to profess ignorance of the Tea Party than their likely voter peers.
While the voter engagement gap has traditionally been a challenge for Democrats in midterm elections, it is particularly significant this year with Tea Party-led enthusiasm expected to drive turnout for GOP candidates.
"Voter turnout will literally decide the outcome of about 50 make-or-break races," Democratic strategist Paul Begala warned supporters Wednesday in an e-mail message sent on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Analysts say that despite the efforts of both parties to rally their bases, a majority of voters will still likely choose not to cast a vote today -- a pattern in midterm elections over the past 30 years.
"Turnout has been fairly consistent over time in non-presidential years," said George Mason University political scientist Michael McDonald, who tracks Americans' voting behavior, "and it looks as though 2010 will be very similar."
Fewer than 48 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in 2006, according to Census data compiled by McDonald. In 1994, when Republicans took control of both chambers of Congress, 48.4 percent of voters turned out at the polls.
While early voting returns have set near-record levels and appear to bolster Democrats' claims that the enthusiasm gap is exaggerated, McDonald said the characteristics of non-voters in 2010 will largely mimick those of their predecessors in previous elections.
Non-Voters in Parties' Crosshairs
Statistics show non-voters tend to be younger, less educated, less affluent than their voting peers and more likely to be a member of a minority group.
These groups have been the target of an intense ground war by both parties in recent weeks, particularly by Democrats who have singled out blacks and Hispanics -- the minorities least likely to vote -- and college-age voters, whom polls show are the most disaffected.
Azalia Contreras, an independent Hispanic voter in Miami, said that despite the outreach, candidates in Florida from both parties can count her out this year.
"They are all the same," said Contreras, 59. "I am not voting this time or anymore while I'm alive. I'm tired of hearing these commercials with politicians throwing dirty laundry at each other. Whatever happened to clean campaigning?"
In New York City, Sasha Preziosa, a 23 year-old photographer who voted in 2008, said she hasn't been convinced that she should care about this year's races. "I don't mean any disrespect, but I just don't know why I should vote this year," she said.
McDonald said non-voters' apathy across demographic groups reflects a broad perception that non-presidential elections are less important.
"The irony is that state and local elections are arguably more important," he said. "But for whatever reason, people don't see the connection as much to their lives."
Still, Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters, said she's optimistic the 2010 midterms will see an incremental gain in turnout.
"I'm hoping that disaffected voters are going to be a minority of voters," said MacNamara, who recently finished a nine state mission to convince non-voters to turnout on Nov. 2.
She said the influx of money from non-party political groups, who have flooded the airwaves with negative campaign ads, have made her job more difficult this year, dampening the mood among many voters.
"If you let that, those negative messages, get to you and convince you not to turn out, then the folks that are conveying those messages have won," she said. "Then the money counts more than your vote."
Regardless of your party affiliation, MacNamara said, "don't get angry, get informed and get out there and vote."