Politics

Conservatives Most Enthusiastic About Voting in 2010 Midterm

by Frank Newport and Jeffrey M. Jones

Nearly half say they are very enthusiastic

PRINCETON, NJ -- Registered voters who identify themselves as conservatives are significantly more enthusiastic about voting in this fall's congressional elections than are liberals or moderates. Those who say they are "very" conservative are the most enthusiastic of all, with substantially higher enthusiasm than those who say they are "very" liberal.

How Enthusiastic About Voting in 2010 Midterm Elections, by Political Ideology

These data are based on Gallup Daily interviewing May 1-16. Gallup's generic ballot throughout May has been closely divided, with roughly the same proportion of all registered voters saying they would vote for the Republican versus the Democratic candidate in their district. Thus, at this point, it appears turnout among supporters of both parties' candidates will be an important factor in the eventual Election Day outcome.

Enthusiasm on the "Left" and "Right"

Gallup data since March of this year have consistently shown that Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting than Democrats. The data presented here on ideology confirm the conclusion that, at this time in the campaign, those to the right of the political spectrum appear to be most motivated to turn out and vote on Nov. 2.

The challenge for those on the political left is that, not only are there proportionately few self-identified liberals -- 20% of registered voters interviewed so far in May identify as liberals, compared to 42% who say they are conservatives -- but liberals remain relatively apathetic about voting. The 26% of liberals who say they are very enthusiastic about voting is similar to the percent of those who don't lean either direction ideologically speaking (moderates) who say the same, and at a far lower level than those who are conservative.

A relatively small percentage of registered voters define themselves as "very" conservative (10%) or "very" liberal (4%). Despite their modest size overall, these voters could have a disproportionate influence on Election Day. They are significantly more enthusiastic about voting than those who share the same ideological identity, but who do not use the adjective "very" to describe their leanings. In short, those who have very strong ideological commitments are also the most eager to register that commitment through voting on Election Day this year.

Conservatives More Enthusiastic Regardless of Party Affiliation

The higher enthusiasm among conservatives is evident among both conservative Republicans and conservative Democrats. However, conservative Republicans are still much more enthusiastic than conservative Democrats. Conservatives who support either party are more enthusiastic about voting than moderates or liberals who support either party, as well as the largely apolitical group of "pure independents" who do not identify with or lean to either major party.

How Enthusiastic About Voting in 2010 Midterm Elections, by Combined Party and Political Ideology

Bottom Line

Ideology at this point in the election cycle appears to be a major driver of enthusiasm about voting in this fall's congressional election. Conservatives are significantly more enthusiastic than liberals or moderates, and those Americans who define themselves as "very" conservative -- about 10% of the registered voter population -- are the most enthusiastic of all.

These data underscore the potential power of conservatives at the ballot box this fall -- including those who identify with the highly-publicized Tea Party movement. The generic ballot currently shows an overall close candidate preference among all registered voters right now in the election cycle, but in low-turnout midterm elections disproportionate enthusiasm, such as is the case now, could give right-leaning candidates a significant boost in terms of actual voters at the polls.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 3,594 registered voters, aged 18 and older, conducted May 1-16, 2010, as part of Gallup Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 1,577 registered voters who self-identify as conservative, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 1,221 registered voters who self-identify as moderate, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 691 registered voters who self-identify as liberal, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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