PRINCETON, NJ -- According to the most recent USA Today/Gallup poll, Democrats are highly enthused about the 2008 presidential election, while Republicans lag behind at a level more consistent with January in prior election years.
The Jan. 10-13 poll included two questions tapping Americans' interest in the election -- one asking them to rate how enthusiastic they are about voting in this year's election, and another asking them to assess whether they are more enthusiastic or less enthusiastic about voting than in prior elections.
Overall, 58% of Americans say they are either "extremely" or "very" enthusiastic about voting for president this year. That is a slight increase from what Gallup found last April (53%), though not as high as what Gallup found in the final weeks leading up to the 2004 election. Typically, measures of interest in an election show increases over the course of a campaign.
Meanwhile, 60% of Americans say they are "more enthusiastic about voting than usual," while 29% report being less enthusiastic. Gallup has asked this question in January of the last two presidential election years, and the current figure surpasses the results from 2000 and 2004.
Both enthusiasm questions show a significant Democratic advantage. Sixty-four percent of Democrats (including Democratic-leaning independents) say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting, compared with 52% of Republicans (including Republican-leaning independents). At no point during the 2004 presidential election campaign did Democrats report a significantly higher level of enthusiasm than Republicans.
The partisan gap is even wider on the comparative enthusiasm measure. Seventy-four percent of Democrats say they are more enthusiastic about voting than usual, but only 49% of Republicans do. That 25-point gap is the largest party difference Gallup has ever measured in a presidential election year.
The higher levels of enthusiasm among the general public this January are essentially because Democrats are more fired up about the 2008 election than they were in January of prior election years. Republican enthusiasm levels are more typical. For example, the 49% of Republicans who say they are more enthusiastic about voting than usual is basically equivalent to what Gallup measured in January 2004 (53%) and January 2000 (51%).
While Gallup has not been able to establish a statistical link between heightened enthusiasm and greater turnout among a party's supporters in past presidential and midterm election years, in general, the party that has the advantage in enthusiasm has tended to fare better in the elections. The fact that enthusiasm is higher among Democrats than Republicans is yet another indicator pointing to a political environment that is currently favorable for the Democrats.
These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 2,010 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 10-13, 2008. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±2 percentage points.
For results based on the 989 national adults in the Form A half sample and the 1,021 national adults in the Form B half sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±3 percentage points.
For results based on the sample of 515 Democrats and Democratic leaners in the Form A half-sample and 506 Democrats and Democratic leaners in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points.
For results based on the sample of 397 Republicans and Republican leaners in the Form A half-sample and 434 Republicans and Republicans leaners in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line 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.