Conventional wisdom, and conventional hand-wringing, has this cycle’s tough primary fight eroding Republican enthusiasm for the general election against Barack Obama. Late last year, that seemed to be the case, as Republicans went from a +13 in enthusiasm in October to a +5 in December. However, the latest Gallup survey shows that enthusiasm has begun to rise among Republicans — and remains flat among Democrats:
By 53% to 45%, Republicans, including independents who lean Republican, are slightly more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to say they are “more enthusiastic than usual about voting” this year. Republicans have consistently led Democrats in voting enthusiasm since last fall, but to varying degrees.
Not only has enthusiasm rebounded, it’s significantly higher than at this stage of the 2008 cycle:
The 53% of Republicans who feel more enthusiastic about voting today — as Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are engaged in a pitched nomination battle — is greater than the 44% found in February 2008 when John McCain and Mike Huckabee were still dueling in the primaries.
Gallup points out that this is still nowhere near Democratic voter enthusiasm in 2008, which was at an astronomical 79%. That, however, was mainly due to the prospect of ridding themselves of the hated George W. Bush and passion for the historic candidacies of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Four years later, Democratic enthusiasm can’t get above 45% in the last six months to defend Barack Obama, and gets nowhere near the 59% enthusiasm in 2004 when Kerry was sailing to the nomination in an ultimately unsuccessful candidacy.
The primary has not eroded Republican enthusiasm. Voters may not be terribly satisfied with the choices presented in this cycle, but as the general election comes closer, Republicans appear to be gaining enthusiasm for beating Obama.