Saturday, July 28, 2012

2012: Are Democrats Going to Lose Based on Low Enthusiasm?

     We've been hearing a lot out of this narrative after a recent Gallup poll showed Republicans are more enthusiastic than Democrats by a 51-39 margin. So is it time to hyperventilate?

     I'm not so impressed. One thing that should be kept in mind is that voter enthusiasm is no guarantee of victory although we are hearing a lot about this large correlation.

     "Gallup has found a relationship between voting enthusiasm and the outcome of midterm congressional elections, with the party that has the advantage generally faring better in the elections. That pattern also held in the 2008 presidential election, with Democrats reporting greater enthusiasm throughout the year and Barack Obama winning the election"

      Yeah, "Gallup found a relationship." Let's see is it anymore than assuming that it matters? Note that the correlation is found more in midterm elections. Consider this as well. In 2008 it's true that at this point in the election cycle the Dems led in enthusiasm by a 26 point margin (61-35). Of course, Obama went on to win a landslide. Case closed right?

      Well I'm interested in 2004, though. That year at this time the Democrats also had a big edge in enthusiasm (68-51). We all know how that one turned out. Look, the tricky thing in economics is being able to figure out what correlations are really material and which are actually red herrings. If Bush won in 2004 even if during this same point in the Summer the Dems actually had a stronger lead than the Repubs do now what does that tell you?

     It tells me this "relationship" Gallup has "discovered" is a little more tenuous than first appearances suggest. I'd like to suggest another relationship that is at least worth looking at. How about the premise that maybe the party in power always shows less enthusiasm? When you're out of power the party is always more enthusiastic. What's interesting is that in the samples we have here in this Gallup piece we see in every year-2004, 2008, 2010 and this year, the party out of the White House is more enthusiastic.

    So maybe that's got something to do with it. In any case, the GOP base is comparatively actually 17 points less enthusiastic  than the 2004 Dems for all the good it did us. Indeed those Dems were even more enthusiastic by this measure than the 2008 Dems.

   Conclusion: it's an interesting metric but you can read way too much into it. Keep in mind as well that voter enthusiasm tends to droop during the Summer before the conventions. And actually, during the GOP primary what was notable was the low level of enthusiasm GOP primary voters had for Mitt Romney. They ultimately went with him as the one most likely to beat President Obama.

    But I would suggest this. Very few people like Mitt Romney. Even the Romney supporters are less Romney supporters than Obama haters. I would argue that most Americans like President Obama and much more of the Obama vote is a vote for hm rather than just a no vote for the other guy. The purely negative support for Romney is a tenuous way to build a winning coalition.

    Finally, I can only speak for myself here. but I am very enthusiastic about this election. If you want to understand what's at stake just think about these words, "The Paul Ryan Budget." If any honest liberal doesn't think the stakes are important enough he's out to lunch anyway.

    I have this argument with Morgan Warstler all the time. He thinks that in 1980 the country became more conservative. They repented of their liberal past and now the game is played on conservative terms. Obama should have :"done a Clinton" and didn't and will now be punished. He thinks the libs had their time-1913-1980 based on "giving away free stuff" but now the conservatives caught up in 80 and that we are now living in a conservative age.

   I think he's wrong though I'll give him credit for saying he'll know he's wrong if Obama wins in November. In reality, I think the conservative wave stopped in 2004, at the nadir of their power, when Buckley wrote his triumphant "Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?"

  In 2005, Bush seemed to have it all with both Houses of Congress. He had plans to privatize Social Security. Yet he ended up tabling it. Why? Because there was no political capital to do it. So then 5 years later Paul Ryan tries to take it a different way going after Medicare.  He actually dares to plan for Medicare privatization. This was considered the third rail for years.

   The point is though is the Repugs lacked the mandate in 2005 and I don't think they suddenly have it now. What Morgan fails to grasp is that the conservative victories from 1980-2004 were the low handing fruit. Now they are trying to aim at the heart of the New Deal. Because that's what this election is really about. A vote for Mitt 'Romney is literally a vote to end the New Deal. I don't see it. I think that the fact that Judge Roberts took the temperature of Americans and realized he couldn't strike down Obamacare shows that the GOP has taken on more than it can chew now.


  1. I have to disagree. Democrats have a higher enthusiasm level than the GOP.

    Look at "Mitt the Twit", who'd want to vote for that?

  2. Anon, that's what I would thnk as well, although this poll by Gallup claims otherwise