At some point, election polls start presenting results for a group of those questioned, the likely voters.
And one of the items used in sorting respondents and determining who is a likely voter is a question about how enthusiastic people are about voting.
Based on the turnout in the 2014 primary elections for Maine’s Second Congressional district, Maine Republicans argued that GOP voters are more enthusiastic and that this will affect the November elections.
According to a newspaper article after the primary:
Many more Republicans than Democrats voted Tuesday in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District primaries, and Republican leaders are calling that evidence of high energy that bodes well for the party’s candidates in November. . .
As of Wednesday evening, with 97 percent of precincts in the 2nd District reporting, Republicans had turned out 6,992 more enrolled voters than Democrats. Figures from the Secretary of State’s Office show 165,309 enrolled Democrats in the district and 126,131 enrolled Republicans. [source]
Now, the differences in turnout may not have been due to enthusiasm at all. Instead, it could have been due to the greater competitiveness in the Poliquin-Raye race on the Republican side, compared to the Cain-Jackson race on the Democratic side.
However, even if we were to assume greater enthusiasm among Maine Republicans, a prominent GOP pollster argues that this may not matter all that much.
To be sure, as the below graphic shows, there is a real enthusiasm gap nationally.
But, as Neil Newhouse — Mitt Romney’s 2012 pollster and cofounder of Public Opinion Strategies, a firm the NY Times called “the leading Republican polling company,” notes:
Two years ago, the same polls that now show the GOP with a marginal advantage on this measure, showed much of the same thing – that GOP voters were significantly more excited about voting in the November Presidential election.
In the end, the 2012 difference in enthusiasm didn’t matter. Per Newhouse,
The enthusiasm gap was taken to the woodshed by the Obama team’s [get out the vote] efforts. In a nutshell, the Democrats turned out voters who were “unenthusiastic,” “unexcited” and not “energized” to vote, rendering the “enthusiasm gap” meaningless.
Ultimately it matters who votes and not how enthusiastic they feel about doing so.
Enthusiasm can motivate people to vote but it’s not the only factor driving people to cast their ballots.
Whether and how all this will matter in 2014 remains to be seen.