The generic ballot and a lingering enthusiasm gap

THE GENERIC BALLOT AND A LINGERING ENTHUSIASM GAP…. A few months ago, Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) reflected on what his party needs to do: “We must deliver. I need to give Democrats something to be excited about.”

The recommendation continues to look sensible months later. A new report from Gallup shows Democrats with slim lead over Republicans, 47% to 44%, when registered voters are asked which party’s congressional candidate they would support in their district “if the elections for Congress were being held today.”

Good news for Dems? Not really — that enthusiasm gap between the party’s voters hasn’t gone away.

Gallup this week introduces a new measure of enthusiasm about voting, based on voters’ responses when asked if they are enthusiastic or not enthusiastic “about voting in this year’s congressional elections,” with a follow-up among those who are enthusiastic that asks whether they are “very” enthusiastic or “somewhat” enthusiastic.

Approximately one-third of registered voters claim to be “very” enthusiastic about voting at this point, while almost 4 out of 10 are not enthusiastic.

There are significant differences in enthusiasm by party, with an 18-point “very enthusiastic” gap between Republicans and Republican-leaning independents on the one hand, and Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents on the other.

Specifically, a plurality of Republicans (42%) are “very enthusiastic” about voting in the midterms, while a plurality of Democrats (44%) aren’t enthusiastic at all.

It’s well within the Democrats’ power to change this. They just have to decide to deliver.

As Greg Sargent noted, “Dems might want to think about giving their base voters something to get enthusiastic about. Maybe a health care reform signing ceremony in the Rose Garden, perhaps? It’s hard to picture these enthusiasm numbers getting worse for Dems, but imagine if reform failed!”