Turning the enthusiasm gap on its head

Turning the enthusiasm gap on its head
Turning the enthusiasm gap on its head
MaddowBlog chart based on Gallup data

Chris Cillizza noted yesterday that for much of 2012, “Republicans have enjoyed an enthusiasm edge – largely attributed to the fact that they are the party without control of the White House and whose base is animated by a deep-seeded distaste for the current president.”

Quite right. Rank-and-file GOP voters were underwhelmed by their presidential choices during the Republican nominating process, and their comfort level with Mitt Romney has lagged throughout 2012. But their blinding hatred of President Obama has nevertheless given the party an advantage when it comes to voter enthusiasm.

At least it used to.

Gallup released a poll yesterday on voter enthusiasm in swing states, and I put together this chart based on the results. On the left, you’ll notice Gallup data from late June, which found Republicans with an edge when it came to those who considered themselves “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic about voting in this year’s presidential election.

On the right, you’ll see the latest figures, based on a poll that wrapped up earlier this week. The good news for Republicans is that GOP voters are more enthusiastic now than they were in June. The bad news for Republicans is that swing-state Democratic voters are much more enthusiastic, and have surged past their rivals.

There are competing explanations for this.

It’s possible the Democrats’ successful convention helped wake party voters up and generate some renewed excitement. Perhaps the slowly improving economy is making Obama’s supporters more energized. Maybe Democratic advertising is having the intended effect. Don’t discount the possibility that Democratic voters are getting a good long look at Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and are deciding they really do love Obama after all.

Regardless of the motivation, the larger trend is hard to miss. If the GOP was counting on an enthusiasm gap to give them an edge this fall, they’ll need to turn to a fallback plan.