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Voter Engagement Higher Among Republicans, Slightly Down Overall

Thursday, August 16, 2012

 

Americans are less engaged in this year's presidential election than they were in 2008 and 2004, a new Gallup poll shows.

Engagement is higher among Republicans than Democrats at this point in the campaign, a fact that may play a big role in the Massachusetts Senate race as well.

Divide Along Party Lines

The percentage of all Americans giving "quite a lot" of thought to the presidential election in July fell to 64 percent this year, compared with 70 percent in July 2008 and 69 percent in July 2004.

However, engagement is still much higher than the 42 percent recorded heading into the 2000 election.

Amount of thought given to the presidential election is one measure Gallup uses to predict voter turnout. The current results point toward lower voter turnout in 2012 than in 2008 and 2004, but higher than in 2000.

The divide between Republicans and Democrats in thought devoted to the election is the widest Gallup has recorded in recent years.

As of the July polling, 74 percent of Republicans had given "quite a lot" of thought to the election, compared to 61 percent of Democrats.

Thirty percent of Democrats said they had thought about the election "only a little," more than the 21 percent of Republicans who offered the same response.

The 13-point advantage for Republicans may be attributable to the long-running primary competition for the party's nomination, as opposed to President Obama's unchallenged claim to the Democratic nomination.

If the current rates of engagement persist, Republicans may benefit from greater voter turnout than the Democrats on Election Day.

Engagement in Mass Senate Race

The levels of engagement among voters on the presidential level may also have an impact on the local U.S. Senate race, where Democrat Elizabeth Warren is trying to unseat Republican Senator Scott Brown.

Tim Buckley, communications director for the Massachusetts Republican Party, was unsurprised to see the gap in engagement between the two parties.

"It is hard for Democrats to get excited about this race with Professor Warren's crusade for higher taxes and anti-business rhetoric leading the charge here in Massachusetts," he said. "Voters are concerned about jobs and the economy and the lack of enthusiasm from the left shows that they are wrong on the issues foremost on voters' minds."

Meanwhile, Charley Blandy of the political blog Blue Mass Group said both Democrats and Republicans in the Bay State have been energized by the Senate contest, even if national fervor has waned.

"Both candidates are raising tons of money, and a huge chunk of it for both of them is in-state," Blandy said.

He doesn't see Massachusetts Democrats lagging behind Republicans either.

"The liberal base loves Elizabeth Warren, they're highly motivated," he said. "I really think she is a dream candidate for a lot of progressive people."

Warren's focus on national issues like the economy, the financial industry and consumer protections has helped her secure progressive support, but the high-level focus may cost her locally-minded votes, Blandy said.

While hesitant to draw conclusions from the 2010 special election where Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley, Blandy said Central Massachusetts is unlikely to go blue this time around.

"It's fairly obvious and has been true for a while that Central Mass is more conservative than the Boston area," he said.

Aside from Worcester and a few other towns, Brown swept Central Massachusetts in 2010, and the region was home to several of the towns where Brown performed best, such as Douglas, Charlton and North Attleborough where he received more than 70 percent of the vote.

"Even if Elizabeth Warren wins, I think that Scott Brown is probably going to carry Central Mass."

 

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