Republicans More Enthusiastic To Vote Than Democrats, But Not Where It Counts

It is commonly assumed that Barack Obama will not benefit from as much voter enthusiasm in 2012 as his candidacy generated in 2008. And while Mitt Romney will not benefit from the enthusiasm that helped propel the Republicans to historic victories in the 2010 midterm elections, there is some evidence that Republicans are somewhat more enthusiastic about the 2012 election than Democrats, for example from Gallup. The party who is able to more effectively mobilize their core supporters to come to the polls in 2012 is likely to have an advantage in winning both the presidential and the down-ballot elections.

We asked a nationally-representative YouGov sample of 775 panel participants who are registered voters, “Thinking about the upcoming presidential election to be held in November 2012, how enthusiastic are you to vote?” with response categories “Not at all enthusiastic,” “Not too enthusiastic,” “Somewhat enthusiastic,” “Very enthusiastic,” and “Extremely enthusiastic.” This question was asked in the days following the Democratic Convention (from September 8 to September 10). Overall, we found that 67.6 percent of registered voters were Extremely or Very Enthusiastic, 16.2 percent were Somewhat Enthusiastic, and 16.1 percent were Not Too or Not At All Enthusiastic. Similar to the Gallup result from June, we found that Republicans were slightly more enthusiastic to vote than Democrats, with 73 percent of Republicans Extremely or Very Enthusiastic to vote versus 71.6 percent of Democrats. Independents are less enthusiastic than partisans, with 58.3 percent Extremely or Very Enthusiastic.

But mobilization of core supporters is likely to be especially important to the presidential race in the closely-contested battleground states. In contrast to the overall numbers, there we find a greater advantage for President Obama. In the Table below we use the New York Times classification of toss-up states to define the battleground states (CO, FL, IA, NV, NH, OH, VA, and WI), and tabulate the enthusiasm separately by partisanship and residence in those states. In the battleground states, 86.4 percent of Democrats said they were Extremely or Very Enthusiastic to vote versus 73.1 percent of Republicans. Republicans hold a slight advantage in less crucial non-battleground states, 72.9 to 69.0. Independents are also somewhat more enthusiastic in the battleground states than in the non-battleground states, but still less excited to vote than partisans.

Enthusiasm To Vote In 2012 By Party And Battleground Residence

Democrats

Republicans

Independents

Battleground State

Battleground State

Battleground State

Percent

Percent

Percent

Not

6.6

Not

8.4

Not

21.7

Somewhat

7.1

Somewhat

18.5

Somewhat

11.5

Very/Extremely

86.4

Very/Extremely

73.1

Very/Extremely

66.8

Not Battleground

Not Battleground

Not Battleground

Percent

Percent

Percent

Not

13.6

Not

11.4

Not

25.8

Somewhat

17.4

Somewhat

15.6

Somewhat

18.2

Very/Extremely

69.0

Very/Extremely

72.9

Very/Extremely

56.0

Diff (BG - Not BG)

Diff (BG - Not BG)

Diff (BG - Not BG)

Percent

Percent

Percent

Not

-7.1

Not

-3.0

Not

-4.1

Somewhat

-10.3

Somewhat

2.8

Somewhat

-6.6

Very/Extremely

17.4

Very/Extremely

0.2

Very/Extremely

10.8

Whether these results are part of the “convention bounce” for President Obama and will fade as time passes requires future polling. But for now, it appears that the Obama campaign has an enthusiasm advantage, rather than gap, in those states where turnout is likely of the greatest concern. Of course, there are still seven weeks until Election Day, meaning there is ample time for the Romney campaign to close the enthusiasm gap in battleground states, and for both parties to attempt to excite Independents... and ultimately turn that enthusiasm into votes on Election Day.


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Authors

Gregory A. Huber

Gregory A. Huber is Professor of Political Science and resident fellow of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies and the Center for the Study of American Politics at Yale University. His research interests are in American Politics and Political Economy, including work on political institutions and behavior.

Conor M. Dowling

Conor M. Dowling is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Mississippi. He studies both mass and elite political behavior with a substantive focus on issues of electoral competition, representation, and public policy. He has published articles in many scholarly journals, including the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, and Political Analysis.

Seth J. Hill

Seth J. Hill is assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of California - San Diego. He studies American politics, voting behavior, and campaigns and elections, with an emphasis on applying statistical methods to measure the effects of turnout and partisan switching on election outcomes, and applications of large-scale data compilations to political science. His published work has appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science, World Politics, and the Election Law Journal.