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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ideology Drives Enthusiasm This Midterm

It's been well established that Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting this fall than are Democrats, but there's more to the story:



Conservatives make up about 70% of the Republican party in these August data, but dwarf their moderate and liberal counterparts in terms of enthusiasm about voting in the midterm elections. The overall sample average “very enthusiastic” is 33%; conservative Republicans burst through the roof with a 51% very enthusiastic number, well over twice as high as the 24% among moderate and liberal Republicans.

These data give Republican office seekers two reasons to veer their platforms, policies, and pronouncements rightward -- at least in primary settings: there are more conservative Republicans out there, and conservative Republicans are the ones who are activated, motivated, and eager to vote.

It’s a little different picture among Democrats, whom we split into three groups based on ideology. Moderate Democrats are the least enthusiastic, underscoring the basic fact of life in American politics today that people in the middle of any scale are not as charged up as those who are on the extremes.

One might expect that liberal Democrats would mirror the enthusiasm of those at the opposite end of the spectrum, conservative Republicans, but that is not the case. Liberal Democrats are mired down somewhat below average in enthusiasm -- no more enthusiastic than are conservative Democrats. Obviously it’s the combination of being conservative and being Republican that is igniting the enthusiasm this election year.

So Democratic politicians seeking election in primaries have a quandary of sorts. They have less incentive to appeal to moderates within their party, but find no differentially higher enthusiasm among liberals than conservatives.

There are a few Americans who don’t even lean toward one or the other political parties -- pure independents -- and they are really out of the system, with only 12% saying they are very enthusiastic about voting. It’s clear that if a poll respondent persists in saying that he or she does not even lean toward one or the other political party, it’s more a sign of apathy than a sign of a highly involved person who simply doesn’t agree with the philosophies of either side of the political equation.

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