A woman places her vote into the ballot box on March 5, 2016 in Bowling Green, Ky.
Photo by Austin Anthony/Daily News/AP

Voter enthusiasm isn’t much of a problem ahead of 2020 race

Updated

There are plenty of interesting results in the new national CNN poll, but this was the question that stood out for me.

“How enthusiastic would you say you are about voting for president in next year’s election –extremely enthusiastic, very enthusiastic, somewhat enthusiastic, not too enthusiastic, or not at all enthusiastic?” Among registered voters:

Extremely enthusiastic: 45%
Very enthusiastic: 29%
Somewhat enthusiastic: 15%
Not too enthusiastic: 5%
Not at all enthusiastic: 5%

Just at face value, without any context, that looks pretty impressive. This survey found nearly half of registered voters are already “extremely” enthusiastic about voting in the 2020 presidential race, and when we add in those who are “very” enthusiastic, the total reaches 74%. That’s roughly three-quarters of the electorate.

But to fully appreciate those results, it’s important to compare against previous cycles. Apples-to-apples comparisons are a little tricky – CNN didn’t conduct the poll specifically in late April, the year before Election Day – but we can still get a rough sense of public attitudes from the last several cycles.

In October 2003, for example, more than a year before George W. Bush’s re-election race, 19% said they were “extremely” enthusiastic about voting in 2004, while 34% said they were “very” enthusiastic. Combined, that’s 53%.

In June 2007, more than a year before the open 2008 contest, 29% said they were “extremely” enthusiastic about voting in the next presidential race, while 25% said they were “very” enthusiastic. Combined, that’s 54%.

In March 2011, at roughly this point in the 2012 cycle, 29% said they were “extremely” enthusiastic about voting in Barack Obama’s re-election race, while 30% said they were “very” enthusiastic. Combined, that’s 59%.

And in July 2015, more than a year before the most recent presidential election, 22% said they were “extremely” enthusiastic about voting in Barack Obama’s re-election race, while 26% said they were “very” enthusiastic. Combined, that’s 48%.

In other words, when looking at the latest figures, voter interest in the 2020 race is massive, despite how much time remains in the election cycle.

Is this good news or bad news for Donald Trump? Well, that’s where this gets a little tricky.

The president’s critics might look at the unusually high percentages as evidence of an electorate eager to vote for someone new.

But that’s not quite right. Looking at the crosstabs, 53% of Republican voters are “extremely” enthusiastic about voting next year, while 27% said they were “very” enthusiastic. The same poll found 45% of Democratic voters are “extremely” enthusiastic about voting, while 33% are “very” enthusiastic.

Combined, that 80% of GOP voters who are eager to cast their ballots, while 78% of Dems feel the same way. That looks to me like a recipe for a very competitive race.

It’s easy to assume that Americans won’t care too much about an election until the months immediately preceding it, but this data paints a picture of an electorate that’s eager to cast some ballots.