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Dem enthusiasm down sharply since 2006, too

It's common enough to hear Dem strategists lament the fact that Dem enthusiasm is way down in comparison to the euphoric levels of 2008, but did you know it's also down compared to 2006?

That's what we find in Gallup's final enthusiasm numbers:


The percentage of Dems that are more enthusiastic than usual this year is at 44 percent -- nine points lower than the 53 percent who said that in 2006, the year of the last midterm elections. At that point, of course, Bush was still in the White House.

By contrast, GOP enthusiasm is off the charts at 63 percent, nearly twenty points higher than during the 2006 midterms. Now, of course, Obama is in the White House.

Gallup's polling has been pretty bearish on Dem prospects for quite some time, and reports from all over are indicating that turnout is pretty robust. So who knows -- maybe the "enthusiasm gap" won't manifest itself at the polls in as pronounced a way as many have predicted.

But if this holds, perhaps the real conclusion to be drawn is this: The one thing that really drives up voter enthusiasm more reliably than anything else is to have a bogeyman from the opposite party -- a figure that concentrates angst, fear, and loathing -- in the White House.

By Greg Sargent  | November 2, 2010; 4:07 PM ET
Categories:  2010 elections  
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Before we go for another round of Jan Brewer is crazy and hateful, here is the news:

Three Americans died in weekend violence in the area of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a U.S. official said.

"Two citizens were fatally shot early Sunday close to the Zaragoza international bridge," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Monday. "In a separate incident, another U.S. citizen was fatally wounded in Ciudad Juarez itself."

Violence is rife in the area, as the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels battle for control of lucrative smuggling routes into the United States, where demand for illegal drugs is strong.

The circumstances of the Americans' deaths weren't immediately clear.

Posted by: MyHairLooksFantastic | November 2, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

In this cycle, it is too late for more polls.

For 2012, the Republicans have to find a leadership cadre or their Tampa convention will produce...a figure that concentrates angst, fear, and loathing.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 2, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I really don't understand the "enthusiasm" question. Of course, I'm not enthusiastic about this year's election. I'm constantly hearing from the media that the Republicans will make significant gains, and I knew that I had to hold my nose and vote for a Blue Dog in the House Race. Why would progressive would be "enthusiastic" about that?

But I was still at the polls to cast my ballot half an hour after they openned.

Posted by: QuiteAlarmed | November 2, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse


The GOP could nominate Jesse Jackson and the Dems would still concentrate angst, fear, and loathing upon him.

Posted by: JakeD2 | November 2, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

I went to vote mid-morning and there was no wait at the polls at all. Walked right up and cast my ballot.

It really surprised me since I live in the heart of Wingnutistan - I assumed I'd be waiting in long lines of angry tea baggers - but it was very quiet. The poll workers said they'd been steady, but I've seen it much busier in previous elections. Maybe a lot of early voters?

Posted by: schrodingerscat | November 2, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I still think this "Enthusiasm gap" is just a lot of Inside The Beltway, fantasy league nonsense.

How was the economy, housing and the job markets back in 2006?

A lot of people, who were living comfortably and secure back then, are now in day to day survival mode, at best. It is the economy stupid. When times are good, people are more enthusiastic than when times are bad.

Of course Right Wingers are always going to get fired up, to try and oust a Kenyan Muslim, Socialist Fascist, usurper from their White Only House.

Besides; today is election day. People are already voting. The real results will be in soon, so what the hell is the point of digging up this old bone, once more?

Posted by: Liam-still | November 2, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse


It's not whether you are enthusiastic about the Dems chances or about the country in general. "Holding your nose" to vote means you aren't enthusiastic above voting. Thanks for your opinion.

Posted by: JakeD2 | November 2, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

@JakeD2: If Jesse Jackson changed his positions so radically that he could win the GOP nomination then he would probably deserve angst, fear and loathing.

Posted by: QuiteAlarmed | November 2, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

My question is: what is Howard Dean's role going to be in the Dem Party after this election cycle?

Posted by: BGinCHI | November 2, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

No, QuiteAlarmed, I mean the full-blown liberal, adulterer Jesse Jackson. On second thought, perhaps the good Reverend could be convinced to primary Obama next year?

Posted by: JakeD2 | November 2, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

BGC, I saw Howard Dean on the tele this morning, debating Rick Santelli of all people.

He didn't say this, but I'll bet Dean is all done with the Obama iteration of the Democratic Party, though he is still very much a party hack, in the good sense of that word (not feral).

Posted by: shrink2 | November 2, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Ya... it's all about white folks' fear and racism. A very original and insightful argument, Sarg. Congratulations.

Posted by: RightKlik1 | November 2, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

@JakeD2: If you follow the link provided above, you'll see that the specific question that Gallup asks is "Compared to previous elections, are you more enthusiastic about voting usual, or less enthusiastic?"

OF COURSE, I am going to answer less enthusiastic to that question. How could I possibly feel more enthusiastic about voting this year than I have in the previous two years? During the last two years, pollsters were telling me about the Democratic surge. This year, pollsters are telling me that my party is headed for defeat. Of course I felt more enthusiastic about casting my ballot when I was being told that my party would win.

But that says absolutely nothing about how likely I am to vote. No matter how glum I felt about Democratic prospects, I was still there at the polls bright and early.

Gallup likes this question because they've noticed that "[t]he party with the advantage in enthusiasm has won the greater share of the national congressional vote, and gained seats in the House, each election year since Gallup began tracking voter enthusiasm in 1994."

To me, it looks like there is a common-causal-variable issue here. Its not that my lack of enthusiasm causes the Democrats to be less likely to win. Its that other variables have led pollsters and media to predict Democratic defeat, and their predictions have sapped my enthusiasm. Odds are good that the predicted Democrat defeat will be realized tonight, but not because I wasn't enthusiastic when I cast my ballot; it will be because of the variables that led pollsters to predict the defeat in the first place.

So I suspect that the enthusiasm question tells us only that poll results influence voter enthusiasm and pollsters have been also been pretty good at accurately predicting elections since 1994.

Posted by: QuiteAlarmed | November 2, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I know what the question was (I used to work for Gallup ; )

While you may have been "unenthusiastic" but still voted, the trend holds that many more will not vote.

Please call Gallup if you have any more questions.

Posted by: JakeD2 | November 2, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

What a meaningless question. I voted. Whether it was with the same level of enthusiasm as in the 2006 midterm election is just irrelevant. Or didn't you notice that Democratic enthusiasm in this election is at the same level as Republican enthusiasm in the "Republican Revolution" of 1994?

Has anyone polled yet on whether Republicratic men in the 18-30 year old demographic would prefer a Presidential candidate who reminds them of Dora the Explorer, or Bob the Builder?

A pox on polling the emotional state of the electorate.

Posted by: bearclaw1 | November 2, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

@JakeD2: "I used to work for Gallup"

Good-golly. Is there anything you haven't done?

Re: enthusiasm-gap. I mentioned earlier when I went to the polls there appeared to be a lot more on the city than the county side. The city trends Democratic, and most of the voters looked awfully grim and determined, so I'm not sure what "enthusiasm" means in this context. Let's just say all these tight-lipped, grim voters were Democrats, and are there to do their duty to keep Republicans from taking control and screwing up the country. Is that enthusiasm?

They may not be excited about their side, but clearly they are motivated to try and keep a bunch of tea-bagging looneybirds out of power. Is that enthusiasm? Might just be the time of day--I went at 8:00 AM--the the crowd on the county (demographically, the more conservative side) was very light. The crowd on the city side was much denser. Although as I also said, that's not going to make a big difference in Tennessee, except for local races and issues.

Still, I'll say--even though I'm looking forward to victory, and us Taking Back America--it's a little too early to be counting the chickens. Let's let 'em hatch first.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 2, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Voting in Austin appears heavy for a gubernatorial year. My precinct, whose population can be described as "tecchie", upper middle class, mixed demographic [Anglo, Asian-American, Texican, and black], had voted as many at 3:30 PM as had voted all day in 2006. Early voting had been brisk, as well.

Polls had said Texans were not suffering lack of enthusiasm, however.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 2, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

@JakeD2: "I used to work for Gallup"

Good-golly. Is there anything you haven't done?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 2, 2010 5:33 PM


Yes. Tell the truth.

Posted by: Liam-still | November 2, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

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