Friday, May 21, 2010

Rethinking the Enthusiasm Gap

When we talk about the enthusiasm gap there's generally an assumption that it's a product of Democrats who went out and voted for Obama but haven't been happy with the pace of change so they're now not going to vote this year.

I don't think that's quite right though- on our last national poll among the people who said they were only 'somewhat excited' about voting or 'not very excited' about voting Obama's approval was a 58/35 spread, much better than his overall numbers. Those folks also said they supported the health care bill by a 50/38 margin, again much better than we're seeing among all voters.

The enthusiasm gap may be caused not by disappointment with the way things are going, but rather contentment. Voters tend to get more energized when they're angry about something. A lot of Democrats feel like things are going fine right now, so they don't have much of a sense of urgency about going out to vote. The biggest threat to the party this fall is not that its voters are unenthusiastic about how things are going, but that they are complacent precisely because they do like the direction the country is headed in.

Somehow the party faithful needs to get the message that things could go right back to the way they were before if they don't remain vigilant about voting and staying involved with the process, but that's easier said than done.


Unknown said...

Obama's not running. Democrats are rejecting his handpicked candidates in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, so clearly they aren't interested in running out to vote for candidates who will advance his agenda. The question is whether Harry Reid or Jack Conway are worth their time to go to the polls for.

rkrone said...

Specter isn't Obama's "handpicked" nomination. The party establishment supported him because that was part the deal when Specter switched. You can't maintain party loyalty if you don't at least appear to support your incumbents. It's the same story in Arkansas. I promise that no tears were shed in the White House on Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

I gotta tell ya, Your thinking on the "enthusiasm gap" between Republicans and Democrats is, in my opinion, upside down. Clearly there are plenty of whys and whatfors to bandy about. However, when it's all said and done there is but one thing that really matters. And that is THE NUMBERS! So lets put the enthusiasm issue into polling data, as reported by Rasmussen. Obama's approval/disapproval ratings were/are as follows:

on 1/4/09 69/28 (+41%)
strongly approve/strongly
disapprove: 41/16 (+25%)

on 5/8/10 46/53 (-07%)
strongly approve/strongly
disapprove: 28/43 (-15%)

Representing a net high to low (approval) loss for Obama of 48%, along with a 40% high to low net loss in respects to those feeling more strongly about Obama and his Presidency; all in 16+ months in office.

In addition, Democrat/Republican generic poll(s), reflecting voter choice, also done by Rasmussen, provided the following results:

on 1/18/o9 42/35 (+7)
on 5/08/10 38/44 (-6)

Representing a net loss of 13% for the Democratic Party.

I might add here that the primary reason that I used Rasmussen exclusively for my numbers is that I wanted the highs and lows, along with polling language and methodology, to be and remain inconstant with one another, rather than picking and choosing from any number of differing pollsters, with varying polling factors.

In concluion, there is indeed an "enthusiasm gap"; one that I suspect will only grow with time - through 2012. But, we'll see.

AySz88 said...

Actually, I think those numbers are still consistent with the conventional wisdom (that supporters are annoyed with the slow pace of change). You wouldn't disapprove of Obama or his proposals - you would approve, and blame someone else for stalling. That is, they are still disappointed, but they don't blame Obama for the slow pace.

Another possibility is that it's not quite disappointment but helplessness - with Democratic majorities in Congress and in the White House, they don't see what else can be changed. (The last paragraph of the article, about remaining vigilant, still applies in this case, of course.)

Anonymous said...


"Handpicked" candidates? Lincoln in Arkansas and Specter in PA were both in the Senate years before Obama even made it to Congress. In both cases Obama would have had openly to reject Democratic incumbents to support challengers. Even so, the White House did a pretty clear job of merely going through the motions in both cases and waiting for the voters' decision....

Christian Liberty said...

The way things were? Things were BETTER without Pelosi, Reid, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, and Obama. We had more freedom and less debt. Americans are EAGER to go back to the way things were before DEMOCRATS SCREWED EVERYTHING UP.

Tim said...

As a Dem, if somebody asked me how enthusiastic I am about voting this cycle, I would probably only say 'somewhat.' But you can bet your ass I'll be at the polls in November to vote against any fool TPGOP candidate.
I think that all that is happening with this is that Ds were super enthusiastic last election, not only we're we finally going to get rid of the Bush/Cheney fiasco, but we were also electing a fantastic candidate and just as an extra - the first African American President in history. You just can't top that. So in comparison, I certainly couldn't say I am 'very enthusiastic' this go round as that would be the same level of enthusiasm as last time.
Again - it makes no difference 'cause I'll BE at the polls voting.

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