Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting on Tuesday than Democrats and have two primary issues — the Ebola outbreak and Obamacare — that are motivating them to vote at a higher rate than the opposition, according to the latest Reuters-Ipsos poll.
Reuters/Ipsos polling data shows Republicans are more certain they will vote, and see their ballot as a way to voice disapproval of Obama’s handling of the Ebola outbreak and his health insurance reform law.
The expectation of robust Republican turnout is why many forecasters see strong odds that the party will take over the Senate and expand its majority in the House of Representatives.
“It looks good for the Republicans,” said Robert Erikson, a political scientist at Columbia University. “The Democrats are at a disadvantage when it comes to turnout.”
About 55 percent of Republicans are certain they will vote, compared with 47 percent of Democrats, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling data for an online survey of 1,725 voters conducted Oct. 25-30. The poll had a credibility interval of 4.2 percentage points for Democrats and 4.8 points for Republicans.
While Republican turnout tends to be higher than Democrats’, fewer Americans identify as Republicans, which means contests are tightly fought.
Tuesday’s elections play to Republican strengths. While most voters are less interested in non-presidential contests, Republicans’ older, higher-income voters are more politically engaged.
Also helping to galvanize Republicans is their frustration over six years of Democratic control of the White House. The president’s party has lost seats in Congress in nearly every midterm since 1934.
James Campbell, a political scientist at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, said parties have bucked this trend only when their president enjoyed high approval ratings, as with Bill Clinton in 1998 and George W. Bush in 2002.
Obama’s approval rating is just 38 percent, according to other Reuters/Ipsos polling data, and he is a lightning rod for Republicans.
“If there’s a unifying theme here, it’s a lack of confidence in the administration’s management,” Campbell said.
Fifty-four percent of Republicans polled said Obama’s handling of Ebola would be very important for them when they vote, versus 40 percent of Democrats.
Some 63 percent of Republicans are similarly focused on Islamic State, a militant group America is bombing in Iraq and Syria. That’s 20 points higher than among Democrats, and a sizable spread also holds regarding Obama’s healthcare overhaul.
The “National Security Gap” relating to Islamic State is playing a role in New Hampshire, where former Massachusetts GOP Senator Scott Brown is looking to unseat incumbent Democrat Senator Jeanne Shaheen. Brown has hammered Shaheen in debates, tying the president’s weak response to IS around Shaheen’s neck and it’s been a factor in giving Brown some momentum.
Otherwise, GOP efforts to make Obama an issue seem to be paying off. The president appeared with his very first Democratic Senate candidate today when he attended a rally at Wayne State University in Detroit with Rep. Gary Peters, who has a comfortable lead over Republican Terri Lynn Land.
Obama has been spending the final week before Election Day campaigning in support of candidates for governor across the Northeast and Midwest. Peters is the only Senate candidate welcoming the president’s embrace, and polling gives the Democrat a comfortable lead in the race.
Also, Obama was visiting the U.S. city with the largest concentration of black residents. Black voters view Obama’s presidency much more favorably than do white voters, and they are seen as the key to determining Democrats’ performance.
Democratic senators in tight races have distanced themselves from their party’s head by criticizing his leadership and avoiding appearing with him. Peters, however, has welcomed Obama’s help and appeared with the president last spring as he was trying to build support.
More than 90% of Detroit voters supported Obama in the 2012 election.
No other Democrat will touch the toxic president, with many stating explicitly that they don’t want him in their state. Neither Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Allison Lundergan Grimes or Georgia’s Democrat Michelle Nunn will say whether they voted for the president. Nunn nearly had apoplexy when her Republican opponent, David Perdue, ran an ad featuring a picture of her with the president. Perdue’s team did some creative editing with the photo, failing to show that former president George H.W. Bush was also in frame. But the vociferous response by Nunn shows just how worried she is to be tainted by any association with President Obama.
As “enthusiastic” as the GOP may be to vote, it would be well to remember that Democrats have the most advanced, technologically sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation in electoral history. They hold the lead in most states that allow early voting where half the votes expected to be cast have already been realized. Complacency would seem to be as much of an enemy as the Democrats.
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. And lately, the Republican party has consistently blown opportunities like the one that is going to present itself on Tuesday.