GOP Holds Early Turnout Edge, But Little Enthusiasm for Romney

Reply Fri 22 Jun, 2012 11:24 am
June 21, 2012
GOP Holds Early Turnout Edge, But Little Enthusiasm for Romney.
Obama Better Liked, Romney Ahead on Economy.
PEW Research Center

Less than five months before Election Day, voters are not as engaged with the presidential campaign as they were at this point four years ago, when interest in the campaign reached record levels. But voter engagement today generally equals or surpasses levels from the four campaigns prior to 2008, indicating that 2012 could be another relatively high turnout election.

Two-thirds of registered voters say they are giving quite a lot of thought to the election, which is down slightly from 2008 but higher than in any campaign from 1992 through 2004. Interest in election news, also lower than four years ago, surpasses interest in all other campaigns since 1992.

The percentage of registered voters who say they are more interested in politics than they were four years ago, which hit an all-time high in June 2008, is down sharply since then. Even so, the 48% who say they are now more interested in politics is identical to the number saying this in 2004 – and higher than the numbers expressing comparatively greater interest in politics than in 2000 and 1996.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted June 7-17 among 2,013 adults, including 1,563 registered voters, finds that the contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is shaping up to be a close one. Not only is the horserace nearly even – 50% of registered voters currently support Obama or lean toward him, while 46% support or lean toward Romney – but each party holds distinctly different advantages.

Republicans hold the edge on several turnout measures, in contrast to 2008 when Democrats had leads – some quite substantial – on nearly every indicator. More Republican voters than Democratic voters are giving quite a lot of thought to the election (73% of Republicans vs. 66% of Democrats) and paying very close attention to election news (45% vs. 37%). In 2008, Democrats held leads on both interest measures, the first time that had occurred in campaigns dating to 1992.

Moreover, GOP voters are more likely than Democrats to say it really matters who wins the 2012 election (72% vs. 65%). Four years ago, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say it really mattered who prevailed.

Yet Democrats are more enthusiastic about their candidate. Most Obama backers support him strongly, while most Romney voters support him only moderately. Similarly, Democrats are more satisfied with the choice of candidates than are Republicans: 68% of Democratic voters say they are satisfied with the field compared with 60% of Republican voters. This is a smaller gap than at this point in 2008, when 74% of Democrats and just 49% of Republicans were satisfied with the field. However, the GOP led in candidate satisfaction during both of George W. Bush’s successful campaigns in 2000 and 2004.


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