I am halfway through the 4th year of my PhD and I have grown to find that I dislike the direction of my dissertation and the project that I am working on. My supervisor is extremely absent as he is running another research group overseas (bigger budget there so he puts his time there). On our side, we have little to no post-docs, and those that are around are trying to use the students to publish more papers for themselves to get faculty positions.
I have found a distaste in my current project and research subject and hope to move to another one that I have found more interest in. I find it mentally taxing to work in this group, as there is no help from seniority and there is a complete lack of focus (for myself and for many other group members in my situation). I am thinking about leaving with an MSc and pursuing a PhD elsewhere, but I'm worried about two things:
1) Will the fact that I took 4 years and quit my PhD for a Masters look bad when applying to a different school? I think I have legitimate reasons but I'm not sure if that is enough.
2) I imagine my supervisor will not write me a good letter for wanting to leave to pursue other interests.
Unfortunately I think this is a bit of a dilemma as I don't think I can graduate in 1.5 years (members in our group typically take 6 - 7 years), so stretching it would be hard. The lack of supervision, direction, and interest all make it hard for me to want to stay, despite my deep interest in research.