The Democrats should be concerned about the “enthusiasm gap” in the upcoming Presidential election. In the latest Quinnipiac University Poll in Florida, a key swing state, we found that Republicans are much more enthusiastic than Democrats about voting in the 2012 presidential election. While 63 percent of Republicans say they are more enthusiastic about voting in this Presidential election than in past presidential elections, only 28 percent of Democrats say they are more enthusiastic. This is a very large gap but with about 13 months to go there is still plenty of time for President Obama to fire up his base.
This enthusiasm poll question is one measure that pollsters use to try to gauge what voter turnout will look like. The partisan makeup of the electorate can have a huge impact on who wins the election.
In 2004, Republican George W. Bush won Florida by 5 points over Democrat John Kerry, 52-47 percent. Similarly, Republican voters outnumbered Democratic voters by 4 points, 41-37 percent, according to exit polls.
In 2008, Democrat Barack Obama took Florida. He defeated Republican John McCain by 3 points, 51-48 percent. Just as there was an 8 point swing in the election (a 5 point Republican victory in ’04 to a 3 point Democratic victory in ’08), the partisan makeup of the electorate also shifted Democrat. There was a 7 point swing in partisanship as Democrats went from a 4 point deficit in ’04 to outnumbering Republicans by 3 points, 37-34 percent in ’08.
It is too early for Quinnipiac to start looking at “likely voters”. For now, we are reporting our poll results among all registered voters. In the latest poll, self identified Democrats outnumber Republicans by 32-29 percent. The question is whether the Republicans big enthusiasm advantage will trump the Democrats slight advantage in party identification.