Final Gallup enthusiasm gap: nineteen points

Gallup released its final polling on voter enthusiasm today, and the bottom line is that it’s record-breaking for midterm elections. In fact, for Democrats and their leaners, it’s the second-best enthusiasm level in a midterm election Gallup has seen at 44%, only topped by 2006’s 53% and their nine-point lead over the GOP in that wave election.

The bad news for Democrats?  Well ….

Americans’ enthusiasm about voting exceeds the recent midterm election high set four years ago, with 50% of Americans and 53% of registered voters saying they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting in 2010. …

The record level of overall enthusiasm is primarily the result of Republicans’ heightened excitement — 63% of Republicans (including Republican-leaning independents) say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting. That not only greatly exceeds Democrats’ expressed enthusiasm this year, but also is substantially higher than what Gallup has measured for either party’s supporters on the eve of a midterm election.

The high level of Republican enthusiasm has led to the largest gap in enthusiasm by party of any recent midterm elections, 19 percentage points. The prior highs were nine points in favor of the Democrats in 2006, and nine points in favor of the Republicans in 1994.

This means that we can look forward to a big turnout today, for which Gallup had prepared by running two models of likely voters in their previous generic Congressional balloting.  This suggests that their models may have slightly underestimated the amplitude of the wave today.  The 63% mark is 19 points higher than the enthusiasm number for the GOP in 1994, when Republicans took 52 seats.  The gap is more than twice as large in that election, and in 2006.

The question then becomes not so much how many House seats the GOP can grab in this wave, but how many Senate seats they can take.  The polls showing the GOP losing in some close races suddenly look rather suspect in the face of a gap this size.  They need 10 to get control of the Senate, and converting close races in West Virginia, Washington, California, and Illinois would make that happen.