Poll: 2010 Promises Democratic Losses Due To “Enthusiasm Gap”

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A new weekly tracking poll by Research 2000 for the Daily Kos brings some truly bad news for Democrats and good news for Republicans: as President Barack Obama’s overall poll numbers continue to decline, there is a notable difference in the “enthusiasm gap” between the two parties — which suggests that 2010 could be a big year of GOP gains as angry Republicans flock to the polls and disappointed or angry Democrats decide to teach their party a lesson and stay home.

Full details are HERE
but here is the relevant section of the poll and post:
But a bigger indicator of peril comes from a new survey question added the DK tracking poll for the first time this week. The poll now includes a rather simple indicator of baseline voter enthusiasm for the year 2010. The question offered to respondents is a simple question about their intentions for 2010:

QUESTION: In the 2010 Congressional elections will you definitely vote, probably vote, not likely vote, or definitely will not vote?

The results were, to put it mildly, shocking:

Voter Intensity: Definitely + Probably Voting/Not Likely + Not Voting

Republican Voters: 81/14
Independent Voters: 65/23
DEMOCRATIC VOTERS: 56/40

Two in five Democratic voters either consider themselves unlikely to vote at this point in time, or have already made the firm decision to remove themselves from the 2010 electorate pool. Indeed, Democrats were three times more likely to say that they will “definitely not vote” in 2010 than are Republicans.

This enormous enthusiasm gap, as well as some polling analysis done by PPP (and analyzed well here by Nate Silver), seems to make passing legitimate health care reform an absolute political necessity for Democrats. This polling data certainly should be something for Congressional leadership to consider, as they move along the legislative path.

You could see this one coming a mile behind the currrent road. In recent weeks, many on the left have been talking about how if there is no public option they’ll sit out the election. Others have said that if Obama asks for substantially more troops for Afghanistan they’re ottathere for 2010.

This fits into a decades-long pattern with post 1960 Democrats in elections. To be sure, there are no hard and fast rules in politics — no absolutes and there are exceptions. But generally you can say this:

  • Republicans are better at unifying during elections and putting some differences aside to vote for their party. As GOPers shun or excommunicate Republican moderates from their party, the cohesiveness of the GOP vote can be expected to be greater among conservatives and even some center-right Republicans. The question is what happens to voters who were/are more moderate Republicans who feel marginalized and disrespected. Will the present incarnation of the Democrats gain their votes? Will GOP moderates think of “Democrats” meaning the more progressive Congressional Democrats or the more centrist Obama?
  • There has been a pattern with Democrats over the years, particularly Democratic liberals (now called progressives since the word liberal was co-opted as a negative word by Republican critics and liberals did not fight to defend its meaning and virtues). Democrats will get all fired up about a new political era dawning but if there are serious bumps in the road some will decide to teach their party a lesson and stay home next time. Then the Democrats lose and spend the next few years expressing shock about Republican policy on environment, judicial appointments, the overall focus of foreign policy, and other issues. They decide to teach themselves a lesson but if they lose seats in Congress or the White House they are taught a lesson: elections (even if you don’t like everything your party does in power) have consequences.
  • Some Democrats seem to forget how difficult it has been for its party to win national elections and regain the White House once they’ve lost it. They will say “what difference does it make,” until the Republicans get the levers of power. Key elections Democrats won in the past few decades involved the creation of winning coalitions which means aggregating interests and short-term compromise to get key policies passed (the argument is that you can go back and fine tune a policy later but first get the basic bones of it on the books). The conventional wisdom is that neither Democratic liberals nor 21st century conservatives can win elections by themselves. But a caveat to that is: it is possible if the other side stays home or votes for the other party to teach its own party a lesson (and if you add to the mix a time of multi-pronged crises with voters unhappy about goverments’ overall abilities to fix problems).
  • “Moderate” is now a dirty word in both parties. So which party’s dominant faction (the Democratic liberals or the Republicans’ 21st century talk radio political culture conservatives) will likely to be less disappointed in its party and get out the vote in 2010?
  • Once Obama announces his Afghanistan policy next week (which most reports suggest will ask for 30,000 to 40,000 more troops and talk about an end game to this war) look for the Democrats to splinter further. Even look for an acceleration in anti-war protests hearing further into 2010, towards the mid-term elections. Indeed, Obama could find that on Afghanistan policy his support comes from GOPers and not from many in his own political party.

    If present trends continue (particularly if health care reform either dies by the end of the year or is booted towards 2010 and doesn’t get voted on until February or March) these trends are likely to continue. The GOP should shoot itself in the foot if exclusionary rhetoric makes moderates of both parties fear it more than the Democrats.

    But at this point if you put all of this together, and factor in the Democrats’ history of teaching their party a lesson by allowing Republicans to win elections by staying home at the polls or voting for third party candidates when they’re angry at their party over a key issue or two, just which party do you think might not be jumping the gun if it sends someone to measure the drapes in Congressional offices and put in a few orders now?