An average of 59% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have said they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting this year compared with past elections, the highest average Gallup has found in a midterm election year for either party since the question was first asked in 1994.
The prior high for a party group was 50% more enthusiastic for Democrats in 2006, which is the only one of the last five midterm election years in which Democrats have had an enthusiasm advantage. In that election, Democrats won back control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since 1994.
The current average is based on four measures of this enthusiasm question since February, including the recent June 11-13 USA Today/Gallup poll. In that poll, 53% of Republicans said they were more enthusiastic than usual about voting and 39% were less enthusiastic, while 35% of Democrats said they were more enthusiastic about voting and 56% were less enthusiastic.
Republicans’ net score of +14 more enthusiastic in the latest poll compared with the Democrats’ net score of -21 represents the largest relative party advantage Gallup has measured in a single midterm election-year poll. More generally, Republicans have shown a decided relative advantage in enthusiasm throughout 2010, averaging a net score of +28, compared with Democrats’ net score of 0.
(Gallup instituted a separate enthusiasm question in March on its Daily tracking survey, which asks voters to say how enthusiastic they are about voting this year as opposed to comparing their current enthusiasm to their enthusiasm in prior elections. This new enthusiasm question lacks a historical trend but has also shown a consistent Republican advantage throughout the year.)
The 28-point party difference in net scores on the “more enthusiastic than usual” question in 2010 is the highest Gallup has measured in a midterm election year, with 1994’s 17-point Republican advantage the only other midterm election-year gap coming close. (See the table at the end of the article for full data by party.)
The enthusiasm question has generally provided an accurate indication of which party will fare better in the midterm elections. Since 1994, the party that has had a relative advantage on the enthusiasm measure has gained congressional seats in that midterm election year. Specifically, Republicans gained seats in 1994 and 2002, while Democrats gained in 2006. In 1998, Democrats gained seats even though Republicans had an advantage on enthusiasm for most of the year. In the final poll before the 1998 midterm elections, Democrats held a slight two-point advantage in net enthusiasm.
Aside from 1998, party advantages in enthusiasm have been established early in a midterm election year and have persisted throughout the year. Thus, it would be unlikely, though not unprecedented, for political conditions to change enough between now and Election Day to wipe out the Republican advantage in enthusiasm. And if that advantage persists, the Republican Party will likely be celebrating gains in congressional seats after Election Day.