Polling sheds light on voter enthusiasm ahead of 2020 race

The conventional wisdom on voter enthusiasm surrounding Donald Trump and Joe Biden may not be entirely correct.
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By Steve Benen

Fox News' latest national poll, released yesterday, asked a question worth paying attention to: "How motivated do you feel about voting in the presidential election?"

Overall, 62% of Americans said they're "extremely" motivated about voting in the fall, while an additional 20% described themselves as "very" motivated. Time will tell whether the electorate maintains this level of enthusiasm, and just how many of these eager voters actually make the effort of casting a ballot, but the data raises the prospect of unusually high voter engagement.

In the United States, we haven't seen turnout above 60% in a presidential election in over a half-century. We haven't seen turnout anywhere close to 70% in 120 years. If the Fox poll reflects public attitudes accurately, and more than 8 in 10 Americans are either "extremely" or "very" motivated about voting this year, 2020 may very well set a new modern standard.

What was also surprising was the candidate who appears to benefit more from this dynamic.

Some Democrats have worried about polling that shows Biden facing an enthusiasm gap, but the Fox news survey found that Biden leads 53 percent to 41 among voters who say they're extremely motivated to vote in November. Sixty-nine percent of Biden's supporters described themselves as extremely motivated, compared to 61 percent of Trump's supporters.

The conventional wisdom tends to point in the opposite direction: Donald Trump's followers are die-hard loyalists, the argument goes, who are counting down the days in anticipation of voting for the president they adore, while Joe Biden's supporters are more tepid, especially in the wake of a long Democratic primary featuring an enormous crowd of candidates.

Obviously, Fox News' poll is only one survey, and we'd need to see more data before drawing firm conclusions, but it's a quality poll suggesting that the conventional wisdom may have it backwards.

It also comes six months after there was unusually high turnout in Kentucky and Louisiana, where Democrats won gubernatorial races, and in Virginia, where Democrats took control of the state legislature.

It's an angle worth keeping an eye on.