As the Republican presidential candidates continue their attacks – mostly on each other – Republican voters in the key swing state of Pennsylvania are becoming less enthusiastic about voting in the general election in November. The good news for the Republican party is that Republican voters are still more enthusiastic about voting in the presidential election than Democratic voters. But Democrats are becoming more excited about the election and are narrowing that “enthusiasm gap” with Republicans.
In the latest Quinnipiac University Poll released on March 14, 2012, 26 percent of Pennsylvania Democrats say they are more enthusiastic about voting in this presidential election than usual (up 7 points from December), while 25 percent say they are less enthusiastic (down 2 points), and 49 percent say they are about the same as usual (down 5 points).
In that same March Poll, 37 percent of Pennsylvania Republicans say they are more enthusiastic about voting in this presidential election than usual (down 2 points from December), while 26 percent say they are less enthusiastic (up 6 points), and 40 percent are about the same as usual (up 5 points).
The “enthusiasm gap” can be defined as the difference between the percentage of Republicans who are more enthusiastic about voting than usual minus the percentage of Democrats who are more enthusiastic about voting than usual. In December, Republicans had a 20 point advantage (39-19 percent). The Democrats have cut that Republican advantage in enthusiasm in half to 11 points (37-26 percent).
Democrats start out with an advantage in party identification in Pennsylvania. In the latest Quinnipiac University Poll, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 5 points, 37 to 32 percent, among registered voters. This 5 point gap is close to the partisan gap in the 2008 exit poll in Pennsylvania, when Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 7 points, 44 to 37 percent.
Barack Obama easily carried Pennsylvania in 2008 by 10 points. Should the Republicans continue to have an enthusiasm advantage over Democrats into November, this could translate into a less Democratic electorate than in 2008 and ultimately lead to a much closer race. However, if the Democrats continue to close that enthusiasm gap, resulting in an electorate similar to 2008, Barack Obama would be tough to beat.