Fired Up, Ready to Go Storm the Ballot Boxes

The biggest story of Bob McDonnell’s dominating win in the Virginia Gubernatorial election is the enthusiasm of Republican voters, and the dispirited nature of Democratic voters.

In 2005, I did the polling for Bob’s successful run for Attorney General. It’s now famous that Bob won the race by only 323 votes over Creigh Deeds. Bob was poised to win by more, but a strong Dem win by Tim Kaine in the gubernatorial race that year kept Deeds closer.

I went back and looked at a key turnout indicator from that race and compared it to this year’s campaign. And the difference was night and day.

The indicator is the campaign interest question, which is always helpful but matters even more in off-year elections and special elections. Here’s the question we ask:

“How interested are you in the November elections for such offices as Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and other state and local offices. Please rate your interest from one to ten, with one meaning that you have no interest in this election and ten meaning you are extremely interested. Of course, you can choose any number between one and ten.”

In 2005, 44% of Republicans rated their interest as a 10, compared to 51% of Democrats. So Dems had a seven point interest intensity advantage.

In 2009, 54% of Republicans rated their interest as a 10, compared to just 34% of Democrats. That’s a staggering 20 point advantage for the GOP – something I’ve never seen before in years of asking this question.

The difference works further down the scale too. In 2005, 68% of GOPers rated their interest as 8-10, compared to 77% of Dems. This year, it was 79% of GOPers being 8-10s, compared to 62% of Dems.

There is also a big difference by race between 2005 and 2009. In ‘05, 48% of African Americans were 10s, compared to 45% of whites. This year, however, the African American intensity wasn’t there – 48% of whites rated their interest as 10s, compared to 31% of African Americans. And that’s AFTER the final Barack Obama rally for Deeds, as well as many emails and mail pieces (and likely phone calls too).

Nicole McCleskey used the Albuquerque mayoral race as evidence of high Republican interest in voting. The Virginia survey research tracking and election results reinforce that finding. The difference in GOP and Dem enthusiasm is staggering – and it is unlikely that GOP enthusiasm will be diminished in 2010. We’re fired up and ready to go.

Public Opinion Strategies