If Barack Obama won his 2008 election based on voter enthusiasm, then he’s got a very, very big problem rolling into next year. According to Gallup, enthusiasm among Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents has dropped to a decade-long low:
In thinking about the 2012 presidential election, 45% of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic say they are more enthusiastic about voting than usual, while nearly as many, 44%, are less enthusiastic. This is in sharp contrast to 2008 and, to a lesser extent, 2004, when the great majority of Democrats expressed heightened enthusiasm about voting.
Here’s the graph, which shows the problem quite clearly:
Interestingly, Democratic enthusiasm dropped significantly in the primary seasons of both 2004 and 2008, although not below 51%, and rebounded sharply after the nominees had been locked into place. In the year prior to both elections, enthusiasm had been at least significant. In 2004, Gallup’s Democratic enthusiasm index hit the mid-60s, and that produced not just a win for George Bush but also for Republicans in the House and Senate. Imagine what a 45% on the enthusiasm index would produce in 2012.
Well, we keep hearing that this enthusiasm problem affects voters across the spectrum, that politics has gotten so partisan that it’s turning everybody off. Is that true? Gallup surveyed Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, and the answer is … no:
Democrats’ muted response to voting in 2012 also contrasts with Republicans’ eagerness. Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans, 58%, describe themselves as more enthusiastic about voting. That is nearly identical to Republicans’ average level of enthusiasm in 2004 (59%) and higher than it was at most points in 2008.
In 2004 at election time, it was 69%, and 65% in 2008. Republicans probably need to get a little more fired up in the coming months, but they are a lot more enthusiastic than their counterparts. I’d guess that their enthusiasm and Democratic lack of enthusiasm come from the exact same source, and unfortunately for Democrats, that source will be at the top of the ticket in 2012. That’s change in which everyone can believe.