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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Primaries Reveal Enthusiasm Gap Favoring GOP

Open Left‘s Chris Bowers comments on the limp Democratic turnout in yesterday’s primaries and urges the DNC to commission some polling to find out what’s behind it. Bowers notes, via Hotline on Call a disturbing decline in Democratic voters, compared to figures for the ’06 mid-term elections:

Just 663K OH voters cast ballots in the competitive primary between LG Lee Fisher (D) and Sec/State Jennifer Brunner (D). That number is lower than the 872K voters who turned out in ’06, when neither Gov. Ted Strickland (D) nor Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) faced primary opponents.
…in IN, just 204K Hoosiers voted for Dem House candidates, far fewer than the 357K who turned out in ’02 and the 304K who turned out in ’06.

Worse, the GOP turnout numbers were up dramatically, according to Hotline:

By contrast, GOP turnout was up almost across the board. 373K people voted in Burr’s uncompetitive primary, nearly 9% higher than the 343K who voted in the equally non-competitive primary in ’04. Turnout in House races in IN rose 14.6% from ’06, fueled by the competitive Senate primary, which attracted 550K voters. And 728K voters cast ballots for a GOP Sec/State nominee in Ohio, the highest-ranking statewide election with a primary; in ’06, just 444K voters cast ballots in that race.

Bowers notes that “This is more than just a demographic problem based on age–there really is a meaningful enthusiasm gap,” and urges the DNC to make a smart investment with some of the $30 mill it has pledged for mid-term GOTV this year:

…There are still no public, national polls looking for answers on why Democratic turnout is so low. All it would take would be to ask a single, open-ended question to 500 people who voted in 2008, but self-identify as unlikely to vote in 2010, “why don’t you intend on voting?” Everyone has theories, but those theories lack empirical supporting evidence…
…Surely, they could spend a little of that money on a transparent, representative, scientifically random, poll of unlikely voters of the sort I listed above. A lot of people are going to be working to try and improve turnout this year, and our jobs would be a lot easier if we actually knew what was motivating unlikely voters.

It’s a good idea. The DNC should take nothing for granted in budgeting midterm GOTV expenditures, and certainly not rely on unverified speculation about the specific reasons for the Dems’ mid-term voter enthusiasm decline.

6 comments on “Primaries Reveal Enthusiasm Gap Favoring GOP

  1. Claimsman on

    I am getting awfully tired of listening to Democrats finding ways to explain why they are going to lose an election before the election is held. We Dems can WIN this election if we can just stop whining.

  2. Jacksonian on

    I didn’t consider my comment to be a whine as much as an analysis of the current political climate.
    By criticizing the right, I more than indicated my disdain for them. I am fully aware of how much worse off our country is under the Republicans. It’s only taken about 30 years for their failed economic policies to decimate the middle class, destroy the labor movement, and concentrate the wealth in the hands of a few.
    But I don’t think any of this means we should just give the Democrats, including President Obama, a pass. The truth is that, thanks to corporations and Wall Street, the lines between the two parties get blurrier every day. It’s up to the Democratic base to hold the Democrats’ feet to the fire.
    If we don’t, it will not matter which party is in control. The lines distinguishing one from the other will have been obliterated.

  3. Poltargyst on

    I understand the frustration, but let’s keep in mind how things would be if the Republicans were still in charge now. Things are absolutely better now than when the Repubs were in charge. Now is not the time to sit on your hands, now is the time to fight harder. Sitting on your hands only gives the Republicans more power. What do you think will happen with your agenda then? GET OUT AND VOTE!!!!! Or quit whining.

  4. Jacksonian on

    President Obama, by seeking bipartisanship as an end, rather than a means, and by staking out a center-right position, has alienated many in his base. This is especially true among progressives, who campaigned hard for the President and who expected more than the few crumbs he has thrown our way.
    Also working against Democrats this primary season — and undoubtedly again this November — is the successful campaign the right has launched to marginalize the new commander-in-chief.
    Taking their cue from Rush “I hope he fails” Limbaugh, conservatives have thwarted not only modest efforts on the administration’s behalf, but also wholly right-wing measures originating with Republicans (read: health insurance mandates).
    By failing to take control of the narrative in the health care reform debate, Obama let not just the right but the crazies in the right define the terms. Thus did we witness the socialization/nazification/communization of reform legislation which reformed almost nothing and, in fact, catered to the corporate interests.
    Given a choice between the eccentric (conservative crazies) and the evil (the Muslim, Kenyan terrorist occupying the White House), fringe voters and fencepost sitters are going to choose the whackos. Combine that with a depressed voter turnout among the Democratic base, and the result is a resurgent Republican party, whose bad governing and declining demographics should have spelled its demise, but which instead has risen, like a phoenix from the ashes, to soar once more.

  5. JAR on

    It’s not hard for me to understand. We thought electing Democrats would effect a change, and it has not. A year for “health reform” that benefits the insurance companies that contribute to the crisis, financial reform that does nothing to prevent another crisis — and which is being watered down as we speak, no realistic idea when there will be an end of the wars, no policy to reduce or end dependence on foreign oil. In short: No Change.


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