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Who’s winning the voter enthusiasm race for November?

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Several new polls provide a sense of levels of voter enthusiasm for the election which is one month away tomorrow. The good news is that they all show an uptick in voter enthusiasm.  Gallup recently reported that overall enthusiasm was “significantly higher than in six prior midterm elections.” Pew reported last week that enthusiasm is “at its highest level during any midterm in more than two decades.” CNN, NBC News/Wall Street, and Fox News polls also show an increase. The new issue of AEI’s Political Report looks at results on this question from these five pollsters and compares current results to their results at roughly the same points in the cycle in 2006, 2010, and 2014. All of these polls were taken before the Kavanaugh cloture vote.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., defends Judge Brett Kavanaugh during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS

Most, but not all of these polls, show Democratic enthusiasm among registered voters higher than Republican ardor, but there is evidence the gap is closing.  In Pew’s poll, 59 percent of registered Republicans but 67 percent of registered Democrats said they were more enthusiastic than usual about voting this year.  In Gallup’s measure, however,  Democratic and Republican enthusiasm levels are similar with 61 and 58 percent of registered voters, respectively, reporting being more excited. CNN’s latest shows that 55 percent of Democratic and 50 percent of Republican registered voters described themselves as extremely or very enthusiastic. NBC News and the Wall Street Journal use a different measure from the others, scoring people on a 0-10 scale.  Sixty-five percent of registered Democrats report being at points 9 or 10, indicating high interest in the election, compared to 61 percent of  registered Republicans.

In its reporting on this new poll, Wall Street Journal reporter Janet Hook noted that while their poll showed significant challenges for the GOP, the party “is closing the enthusiasm gap.”  And now in a new poll we didn’t include in our October Political Report, Domenico Montanaro of NPR reports that “Just over a month away from critical elections across the country, the wide Democratic enthusiasm advantage that has defined the 2018 campaign up to this point has disappeared.” This comes from a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released earlier this week. In the poll, 82 percent of registered Democrats and 80 percent of registered Republicans said the November elections were “very important.”

In looking back to roughly the same period in 2006 from polls where we have data,  Democratic enthusiasm in the Gallup, Pew,  and NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls was much higher than GOP enthusiasm. In none of these 2006 polls was Democratic enthusiasm as high as it is today.  And, as we all remember, 2006 was a very bad year for the GOP.

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