With the gradually dwindling field of Republican presidential candidates setting its sights on ousting President Barack Obama, electoral energy in the next election may not be as intense among Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents, according to the latest Gallup figures.
It now turns out that 49% of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting in the next election. Between September and now, that’s a 9% drop. Although Republican-affiliated voters are still more enthusiastic than Democrats, of which 44% are more enthusiastic than usual, the “enthusiasm gap” has narrowed quite significantly between registered voters of the two parties.
Gallup notes that voting enthusiasm generally relates to the eventual outcome in midterm and presidential election years. Furthermore, in election years, where one party has a clear advantage in enthusiasm, it tends to fare better in the midterm elections or win the coveted presidential election.
Recent examples given by Gallup include the significant enthusiasm advantage that Democrats enjoyed in 2008 when they focused on returning a Democrat to the White House after eight years of Republican President George W. Bush. This was also seen in 2000 with Republicans, who enjoyed a successful election after 8 years of having a Democrat in the White House.
This narrow enthusiasm gap could also reflect the intense intra-party struggle for the GOP nomination, as well as the rapid rise and fall of various 'top-tier' candidates. It remains to be seen if Republicans’ voting enthusiasm steadies, rises, or falls once a nominee is chosen.
Going beyond what the Gallup poll posits in its analysis, there are even broader implications. For instance, Independents don't seem to be the only ones frustrated by the two-party system. Even voters identifying with the Republican Party are clearly frustrated with its current field of candidates as a viable alternative to President Barack Obama.
The latest Gallup data also seems to suggest that, just because one belongs to one of the two major political parties, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the party-aligned voter is more motivated to participate in the voting process than an Independent voter who refrains from identifying with either of the two parties. There could also be an emerging trend among Republican-affiliated voters who are turned off from supporting their party's nominee as a result of a weak field of candidates. The argument that anybody from the opposite party is better than a lackluster incumbent-the argument being put forward in some Republican circles- may no longer be a plausible one for some who’ve accepted this position in the past.
Times are changing with Independents growing in number. The steady growth of Independents with each subsequent election could make this group the most powerful political force in the national electorate. Furthermore, the internet is giving voters a platform to engage in the political process in a raw and unfiltered manner - especially in light of the Independent demographic previously showing a lack of confidence in television and print news.
This latest Gallup Poll was conducted through telephone interviews from Nov. 28- Dec. 1, 2011 with a random sample of 1,012 U.S. adults. The maximum margin of sampling error for the total sample of national adults was +/- 4 percentage points, with a 95% confidence rate.