Dem Turnout Problems Continue

This post was written by Glen Bolger and Jim Hobart

In recent days, this article from Gallup about a decline in enthusiasm among Republican voters has gotten a good deal of attention in the press and especially in the liberal blogosphere. While some in the media were quick to tout this survey as “good news” for Democrats, the realities of polling and the results of last Tuesday’s primaries are signs that Democrats still have a very significant problem when it comes to turnout in the 2010 elections.

When you look at the actual poll numbers from the Gallup survey, two things become clear. First, one data point does not a trend make. GOP enthusiasm dropped from 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} very enthusiastic” to 43{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} very enthusiastic. While this “trend” could certainly continue, it could just as easily reverse course. Second, Dem enthusiasm remains low, with just 33{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Dems saying they are “very” enthusiastic about voting.

While Democrats and members of the media pointed to the Gallup poll as a sign of hope for Democrats in 2010, primary turnout in Ohio and North Carolina served as a reminder that at this point, hope is about all Democrats have.

In Ohio, where Democrats have made significant gains in the last two election cycles, 741,679 Ohioans voted in the Republican primary, compared to 673,597 in the Democrat primary. This is especially noteworthy because there was a high profile Senate primary on the Democrat side, and only down ballot statewide primaries on the Republican side. This light turnout in the primary does not bode well for Ohio Democrats in November

In North Carolina, which was home to another competitive Democrat Senate primary, just 50,000 more people voted in the Democrat primary than in the Republican primary. Democrats have a more than 800,000 person edge in voter registration, and Republicans had no statewide primaries to help drive turnout, so a primary turnout edge of just 50,000 in the state is another sign of the Democrat’s enthusiasm problem.

(For more on the Dem turnout problems last Tuesday, be sure to read Reid Wilson’s excellent breakdown on the Hotline’s On Call blog.)

The recent Gallup survey is probably not the first, and will certainly not be the last public poll to show the GOP enthusiasm gap “shrinking.” It is unrealistic to expect Republicans to maintain an enthusiasm edge of 15-20 points throughout the year. However, there is currently no  significant evidence, both in polling, and at the ballot box, to suggest that GOP candidates throughout the country will not benefit from a Republican base that is fired up, and ready to vote for change. As we saw in Virginia this past fall, a fired up GOP base can lead to landslide Republican victories.

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