Politics

U.S. Voter Enthusiasm Declines After Peaking in Late March

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Generic-ballot preferences remain closely divided

PRINCETON, NJ -- Registered voters' enthusiasm about voting in this fall's midterm elections has steadily declined since peaking in late March after the passage of healthcare reform. The 30% of registered voters who now say they are very enthusiastic about voting is down 10 points from late March and is tied for the lowest Gallup has measured so far during the campaign.

March-May 2010 Trend: Enthusiasm About Voting in This Year's Congressional Elections: % Very Enthusiastic

Enthusiasm is lower among both Republicans and Democrats -- down 15 and 10 points, respectively, from its peak. Still, Republicans continue to hold a double-digit advantage in voting enthusiasm, a key measure in forecasting past election outcomes.

March-May 2010 Trend: Percentage Very Enthusiastic About Voting in 2010 Midterm Elections, by Political Party

According to the same Gallup Daily tracking data for the week of May 17-23, registered voters' candidate preferences are closely divided, with 47% saying they would vote for the Democrat in their district and 46% for the Republican if the election were held today.

Gallup's weekly tracking of congressional voting preferences has shown no more than a one-point spread in any of the last five weeks. Though the Democrats' current one-point edge is not a statistically meaningful lead, it does represent the first time the party has had a numerical advantage in registered voter preferences since mid-March.

March-May 2010 Generic Ballot Trend: If the Elections for Congress Were Being Held Today, Which Party's Candidate Would You Vote for in Your Congressional District?

Because Republicans usually have an advantage in voter turnout over Democrats on Election Day, a close division on the generic ballot among all registered voters would generally predict a greater ultimate vote share for Republicans than for Democrats. That has been the case in past years when Republicans had strong showings on Election Day, such as in the 1994 and 2002 midterm elections. In years when Democrats fared better in midterm elections, such as in 1982 and 2006, they enjoyed large leads on the generic ballot among all registered voters.

Explore more Gallup data relating to the upcoming congressional midterm elections, including Gallup's complete generic ballot trend since 1950 in our Election 2010 key indicators interactive.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted May 17-23, 2010, with a random sample of 1,335 registered voters, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using a random-digit-dial sampling technique.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted on the basis of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone only status, cell phone mostly status and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

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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