Pollsters have long found voter enthusiasm to be rather predictive of election results. Back in October of 1994, 45 percent of Republican said they were more enthusiastic to vote than usual, compared to 30 percent of Democrats. Republicans ran the table. In June of 2006, just months before Democrats took back control of the House and Senate and most governorships, the numbers were reversed, with 46 percent of Democrats claiming more enthusiasm than normal, compared with just 30 percent of Republicans.
In April, Pew asked a slightly different question and found that the enthusiasm gap had swung to Republicans again this year. “Overall, 76% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say they are certain they will vote, compared with 63% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters. Relatively satisfied Republican voters are no more committed to voting than are Democrats – it is the highly dissatisfied Republicans and independents that are driving this difference.”
Today, Gallup has released new numbers that put the same dynamic into even sharper relief. They asked questions based on political ideology, not party, and came up with some striking results. Among conservatives, 45 percent claimed to be very enthusiastic, compared with 22 percent of moderates, and 26 percent of liberals. To make matters worse, there are far more self-identified conservatives than there are liberals. “The challenge for those on the political left is that, not only are there proportionately few self-identified liberals — 20% of registered voters interviewed so far in May identify as liberals, compared to 42% who say they are conservatives — but liberals remain relatively apathetic about voting,” Gallup reports. The pollsters conclude:
The generic ballot currently shows an overall close candidate preference among all registered voters right now in the election cycle, but in low-turnout midterm elections disproportionate enthusiasm, such as is the case now, could give right-leaning candidates a significant boost in terms of actual voters at the polls.
None of this is determinative–there are still months to go–but neither is it a good sign for President Obama.