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Americans Showing Average Enthusiasm for Voting in 2024
Politics

Americans Showing Average Enthusiasm for Voting in 2024

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fifty-four percent of Americans say they are more enthusiastic about voting this year than in previous elections, while 41% are less enthusiastic. The resulting 13-percentage-point spread is about average for net enthusiasm at this stage of a presidential campaign. Net enthusiasm for voting was greater at similar points in the 2020, 2008 and 2004 presidential primary seasons than it is today, but was lower than now in 2000, 2012 and 2016.

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In most of these years, the party nominations were settled at the time of the late winter/early spring polls, but in 2008 and 2012, competitive primaries were ongoing.

The latest results are based on a 鶹ýAV poll conducted March 1-20.

Americans typically become more enthusiastic about voting by Election Day, with the percentage “more enthusiastic” reaching close to 65% in late October/early November and the percentage “less enthusiastic” shrinking to about 23%. That was the case in all elections since 2004 except for 2016, the latter featuring two historically unpopular nominees in Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

For now, there is a close connection between Americans’ voting enthusiasm and their view of whether either Joe Biden or Trump would make a good president. About two-thirds of those who say only Biden (67%) or only Trump (69%) would make a good president are more enthusiastic about voting than usual. However, this drops to 24% among those saying neither candidate would be good. Seventy-one percent of Americans in this group feel less enthusiastic about voting.

Republicans’ Enthusiasm Edge Typical of Recent Elections

Partisan differences in voting enthusiasm can vary over the course of each election year, but the party with the higher net-enthusiasm score at the end of a presidential campaign usually sees their candidate win. This is likely because partisan enthusiasm at that point in the election cycle is closely tied to their candidates’ position in the preelection polls -- the better their party’s candidate is doing, the more enthusiastic they feel about voting.

For now, with seven months to go, similar percentages of Democrats, including independents who lean Democratic, and Republicans/Republican leaners say they are more enthusiastic about voting this year than in previous elections -- 55% and 59%, respectively. However, with 42% of Democrats versus 35% of Republicans saying they are less enthusiastic than usual, Democrats’ net enthusiasm trails Republicans’ by 11 points, +13 to +24.

Both party groups are less enthusiastic about voting today than four years ago, just after Biden had secured the Democratic nomination to take on Trump in the election. At that time, Republicans had a robust +42 net enthusiasm score, contrasted with Democrats’ +22.

Democrats’ strongest enthusiasm at this point in a primary season was recorded in February 2008 as Clinton and Barack Obama were locked in a highly competitive race for the Democratic nomination.

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What Does This Portend for the Election?

Whether Americans’ enthusiasm for voting is high or low matters less to presidential election outcomes than which party expresses greater enthusiasm at the end of the campaign. That remains to be seen. However, as 鶹ýAV continues to track this metric in 2024, it is worth bearing in mind that in the two years Democrats had a clear lead over Republicans in net enthusiasm at the end of the campaign (in 2008 and 2020), the Democratic candidate for president won. By contrast, in the three years when Republicans were more enthusiastic at the end, their party’s candidate prevailed in two (2004 and 2016) while losing in one (2012). In other words, having an enthusiasm advantage has been less of a guarantee of party victory for Republicans than Democrats.

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