skip to main content
Election 2016
Thought Given to Election High for Pre-Primary Period
Election 2016

Thought Given to Election High for Pre-Primary Period

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Attention substantially higher than in past elections
  • Republicans are slightly more tuned in than Democrats

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ahead of the 2016 presidential primaries, 63% of U.S. adults say they have given "quite a lot" of thought to the presidential contest -- higher than the percentages who thought a lot about the election before the primaries began in 1992, 2000 and 2004. At a similar point in 2008, 64% had given the campaign a lot of thought, but that was after voting had already occurred in three states, including Iowa and New Hampshire.

Thought Given to Presidential Election
How much thought have you given to the upcoming election for president?
  Quite a lot% Some (vol.)% Only a little% None%
Jan 21-25, 2016 63 4 32 2
Jan 10-13, 2008 64 5 27 3
Jan 9-11, 2004 48 4 44 4
Jan 17-19, 2000 33 9 52 6
Jan 6-9, 1992 30 6 55 8
(vol.) = Volunteered response
Gallup Poll

The amount of thought given to an election is an important indicator of voter engagement and often relates to voter turnout in national elections. A separate Gallup measure, reported previously, found that 69% of Americans are following news about the election very or somewhat closely, similar to the current "thought" finding.

Republicans, Conservatives and Older Americans Are More Engaged in Election

Though engagement with the presidential election is generally high -- as the "thought" question shows -- some groups seem especially energized about the coming election. Seventy-four percent of adults aged 65 or older and 73% of those aged 50 to 64 say they have given quite a lot of thought to the election. By contrast, younger Americans are more likely to be tuning it out: 43% of 18- to 29-year-olds say they have given serious thought to the election.

Thought Given to 2016 Presidential Election, by Subgroup
How much thought have you given to the upcoming election for president -- quite a lot, or only a little?
  Quite a lot%
U.S. adults 63
Republican/Lean Republican 70
Democrat/Lean Democratic 63
Conservative 68
Moderate 60
Liberal 61
18 to 29 43
30 to 49 60
50 to 64 73
65+ 74
Whites 69
Nonwhites 49
Jan. 21-25, 2016
Gallup Poll

At this early point in the election process, Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party (70%) are modestly more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners (63%) to be politically engaged. Likewise, conservatives are more engaged than moderates or liberals in the election: 68% of conservatives have given a lot of thought to the election, compared with 61% of liberals and 60% of moderates.

About seven in 10 white Americans have given a heavy amount of thought to the election, compared with 49% of nonwhites. This differs from the 2008 election, when there was little difference between these groups on this question, reflecting the rise of Barack Obama and the possibility of his becoming the first black president.

About Half of Adults Enthusiastic About Voting in Election

On a separate measure, nearly half of U.S. adults (48%) say they are "extremely" or "very" enthusiastic about voting in this year's presidential election, a figure that is in line with previous readings at this juncture of the campaign cycle. In January 2012, for example, 47% were enthusiastic about voting, while enthusiasm was slightly higher in January 2008 -- again, after voting had already started -- when 58% reported being enthusiastic. Generally, enthusiasm about voting tends to increase as the general election draws closer.

U.S. Adults' Enthusiasm About Voting in Presidential Election
How enthusiastic are you about voting for president in this year's election?
  Extremely/Very% Somewhat% Not too/Not at all%
Jan 21-25, 2016 48 26 26
Jan 27-28, 2012 47 25 26
Jan 10-13, 2008 58 25 17
Gallup Poll

Republicans have a modest advantage over Democrats on this metric, as they typically do. A majority of Republicans and Republican leaners (54%) are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting, compared with 49% of Democrats and Democratic leaners.

Bottom Line

Many Americans are giving the 2016 presidential election considerable thought, an early indicator that this election could see high voter turnout. Electoral engagement is higher this year than at similar points in the 1992, 2000 and 2004 campaigns, and on par with engagement in 2008 after primary voting had already begun.

Generally, Republicans and the key segments that make up the Republican base, such as conservatives and older Americans, are at least slightly more engaged in the election than Democrats and groups that tend to lean Democratic. One challenge for the person who claims the Democratic nomination is to find ways to increase interest and excitement within the Democratic base.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 21-25, 2016, with a random sample of 1,022 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030