By Shane D’Aprile - 10/07/10 09:55 AM EDT
The Hill/ANGA 2010 Midterm Election Poll confirms a strong trend this election season of Democrats being less enthusiastic about voting than are Republicans and dissatisfied independents.
“Right now, there’s no doubt that Republicans are showing a high level of passion when it comes to turnout,” said pollster Mark Penn, who noted the gap between Republicans and Democrats shrinks when asked how likely they are to come out and vote this fall.
Overall, 91 percent of Republicans in the sample of likely voters said they “definitely will vote” this fall, compared to 85 percent of Democrats.
That response could be key to these freshman lawmakers’ reelection chances, for none of the endangered Democrats who represent the 12 districts polled has a lead over his or her Republican challenger. Many of the races are close enough that, with a more motivated Democratic base, the landscape for these members could be brighter.
The poll also measured a sizable intensity gap among likely voters aged 18 to 34, a key voting bloc that came out for Obama in 2008. Just 56 percent of young voters said they are “very passionate” about casting a ballot this fall. Another 38 percent described themselves as “somewhat passionate.” That’s the lowest level of intensity across any demographic group in The Hill/ANGA poll.
“The bottom line is that GOP voter intensity is high and the impact it has on turnout could be the determining factor in many of these races,” said Penn.
In some of the districts, the enthusiasm gulf is enormous.
In Arizona’s 1st District, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) trails Republican Paul Gosar by 7 percent, but there’s a gap of 36 points in intensity between Republicans and Democrats.
In that race, 96 percent of Republicans said they were “very passionate” about voting this fall, compared to 60 percent of Democrats who described themselves that way.
In other districts the intensity gap isn’t quite as drastic, but it generally favors the GOP.
In Rep. Betsy Markey’s (D-Colo.) district, 69 percent of Democrats are “very passionate” about voting, compared to 80 percent of Republicans.
In Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy’s (D) Ohio district, the intensity split is 78-65 in favor of the GOP.
In Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper’s (D) Pennsylvania district, the gap is 75-59 in favor of Republicans.
In most of the 12 districts surveyed, Democrats and independent voters exhibit similar levels of intensity. But in Rep. Debbie Halvorson’s (D-Ill.) district, independent voters are more passionate about voting this fall than Democrats, by nine points. Just 63 percent of Democrats in the Illinois district are “very passionate” about heading to the polls, compared to 72 percent of independents and 81 percent of Republicans.
One exception to the intensity gap appears to be Nevada’s 3rd District, where Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) is a leading GOP target. Democrats in Titus’s district are as likely to turn out on Election Day as Republicans there.
In that race, 82 percent of Democrats said they are “very passionate” about voting in 2010, while 84 percent of Republicans said the same. Just 69 percent of independent voters described themselves that way.
Democratic strategists acknowledge the turnout dynamic in 2010 is among the most worrisome signs for the party’s midterm prospects. Since late spring, public polling has measured a large enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans, but as the popularity of Congress and the president has taken a nosedive, that gap has become a gulf of more than 20 points in some polls.
It was on display during the primary season when 4 million more Republicans than Democrats voted in this year’s early contests.
Writing on the Huffington Post earlier this week, Organizing for America (OFA) Deputy National Director Jeremy Bird argued that the enthusiasm gap is “overblown” and talked up Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts across the country.
The Democratic National Committee has pledged to spend $50 million on voter turnout this fall, and OFA, the grassroots group that helped Obama win the White House, retains a presence in all 50 states.
Over the past week the party has argued that the enthusiasm gap is closing. On Sunday, the White House claimed steady progress. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said on a conference call with reporters, “We have seen, I think, that we are beginning to make up the enthusiasm gap. We are making progress every day.”
The Hill/ANGA 2010 Midterm