Midterm elections are usually low turnout affairs that inspire less enthusiasm among voters when compared to election years when the presidency is at stake. But, per Gallup, it appears this November’s midterms may demonstrate less enthusiasm than the 2010 midterm elections. And that’s bad news for Democrats seeking to keep their numbers up in Congress.
A majority of U.S. registered voters, 53%, say they are less enthusiastic about voting than in previous elections, while 35% are more enthusiastic. This 18-percentage-point enthusiasm deficit is larger than what Gallup has measured in prior midterm election years, particularly in 2010 when there was record midterm enthusiasm.
Among registered voters, 42% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents currently say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting, while 50% are less enthusiastic, resulting in an eight-point enthusiasm deficit. But Democrats are even less enthusiastic, with a 23-point deficit (32% more enthusiastic vs. 55% less enthusiastic).
In midterm elections here Republicans have enjoyed a lead in enthusiasm among voters, they’ve done pretty well:
Typically, the party whose supporters have an advantage in enthusiasm has done better in midterm elections. Republicans had decided advantages in enthusiasm in 1994, 2002, and especially 2010 — years in which they won control of the House of Representatives or expanded on their existing majority. Democrats had the advantage in 2006, the year they won control of the House. Neither party had a decided advantage in 1998, a year Democrats posted minimal gains in House seats.
Obviously, every election is determined by which party is able to turn out the most voters. Enthusiasm among voters goes along way toward ensuring a good voter turn out. On the other hand, when enthusiasm is low among a voting group, the efforts of GOTV efforts are much less fruitful. And that is what the Gallup numbers portend for Democrats this time around.
However, as Gallup points out, although Republicans hold an advantage the enthusiasm for Republicans is nowhere near what it was in 2010:
The thought and enthusiasm measures together suggest a mixed picture for Republicans. On one hand, it seems clear that 2014 will not be a repeat of 2010, when record Republican enthusiasm presaged major gains for the party in Congress. This year, Republicans’ reported enthusiasm not only pales in comparison to 2010, but also to every other midterm election year.
However, Republicans still maintain advantages in thought given to the election and in voter enthusiasm compared with Democrats, and these advantages normally point to a better year for Republicans than Democrats. There is some uncertainty about how that will play out this year given that both Republicans and Democrats say they are less enthusiastic than usual about voting — something that has occasionally occurred in past midterm election years but never over the course of an entire midterm campaign.
So the questions are:
1) Can Republicans at least maintain and hopefully build up their edge.
2) Will those voters leaning Republican be turned off by the focus of establishment Republicans on savaging the so-called “Tea Party” candidates?
3) Can Democrats find a way between now and November to up the enthusiasm quotient of their base, and if so how?
4) Will Democrats run to or from Obama?
5) Assuming Republicans maintain the enthusiasm edge, will it be enough for Republicans to take the Senate?