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Election 2016
Thought About Election Up, but Enthusiasm Edges Down
Election 2016

Thought About Election Up, but Enthusiasm Edges Down

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Those giving quite a lot of thought up to 71% from 63% in January
  • At the same time, enthusiasm about voting down five points to 43%
  • Republicans have lost the enthusiasm edge they held in January

PRINCETON, N.J. -- The bruising presidential primary season appears to be taking a toll on Americans' enthusiasm about the election this year. While Americans are giving more thought to the presidential election now than in January, their enthusiasm about voting for president has slipped.

Thoughts About Election and Enthusiasm About Voting
January and March 2016
  January 2016% March 2016%
Quite a lot of thought given to election 63 71
Extremely or very enthusiastic about voting this year 48 43
Gallup Poll

The latest update on these two key indicators is based on Gallup interviewing conducted March 21-23. Gallup has not asked the enthusiasm question on a systematic basis in past elections, but did measure enthusiasm in January and March of 2012. Those results also showed a downtick in enthusiasm in the early months of the election year, with Americans' enthusiasm (extremely/very enthusiastic) falling from 47% in January 2012 to 38% in March. This suggests the primary and caucus season, a time when Americans are paying more attention to the campaign and when there is greater scrutiny of the candidates' records, can dampen voter enthusiasm. Enthusiasm stayed low in 2012 until fall, when it began to edge up during the intense part of the general election campaign.

Gallup's only measure of enthusiasm from 2008 was in January, when 58% of voters were extremely or very enthusiastic about voting, significantly higher than has been the case in either January or March of this year, or in 2012.

How enthusiastic are you about voting for president in this year's election?
  Extremely/Very enthusiastic%
National adults
Mar 21-23, 2016 43
Jan 21-25, 2016 48
Mar 25-26, 2012 38
Jan 27-28, 2012 47
Jan 10-13, 2008 58
Gallup Poll

Republicans' enthusiasm about voting since January has slipped more than Democrats', leaving an equal 46% of both partisan groups extremely or very enthusiastic at this point. The overall average of 43% is pulled down by the very low enthusiasm among independents who do not identify with or lean toward either party. In contrast to the parity in enthusiasm today, Republicans had a five-percentage-point edge in enthusiasm in January.

The two partisan groups were also equal in enthusiasm in March of 2012. By contrast, Democrats had a marked edge in January 2008, most likely reflecting the excitement generated by the strong candidacies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side of the political equation.

Both Republicans and Democrats Are Giving More Thought to Election

Even as they are becoming less enthusiastic about voting, Americans are giving more thought to the election compared with January. The current thought level is higher than was the case in March of the 2004 and 2000 election years. All of these measures are eclipsed, however, by the higher level of thought measured in March 2008. The historical record suggests that thought given to the election will increase further in the months ahead -- as the nominees are determined, the conventions are held, the debates take place and the November election draws nigh.

How much thought have you given to the upcoming election for president -- quite a lot, or only a little?
  Quite a lot% Some (vol.)% Only a little% None%
Mar 21-23, 2016 71 1 25 3
Jan 21-25, 2016 63 4 32 2
Mar 14-16, 2008 75 3 19 1
Mar 26-28, 2004 64 2 31 3
Mar 5-7, 2004 62 3 32 3
Mar 30-Apr 2, 2000 42 7 46 5
Mar 10-12, 2000 50 7 38 5
Gallup Poll

Republicans' and Democrats' levels of thought given to the election rose by identical margins from January to March, preserving the Republican advantage seen in January. In comparison, Democrats gave a bit more thought to the election in March 2008, while Republicans had a very slight edge in March 2004. None of these differences between party groups, then or now, are large.

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
  Jan 21-25, 2016% Mar 21-23, 2016% Change(pct. pts.)
U.S. adults 63 71 8
Republican/Lean Republican 70 77 7
Democrat/Lean Democratic 63 70 7
Gallup Poll

Bottom Line

Americans have become somewhat less enthusiastic about voting as the election process has moved through the first two-and-a-half months of the year, even though they are giving more thought to the election. Most of this appears to be caused by the drop in enthusiasm among Republicans, who were more enthusiastic than Democrats in January, but not any longer.

Other research has shown that Republicans have also become less likely to say the election process is working as it should. These findings underscore the conclusion that the GOP campaign so far this year, particularly the controversy generated by front-runner Donald Trump and reactions to it, is having a negative effect on how rank-and-file Republicans are looking at the whole process.

Americans are clearly paying attention to the election, and given that thought is a good predictor of turnout in November, this year could see a rebound from the 2012 turnout levels. In that election, turnout was lower than the two elections that preceded it. The key issue relating to increased turnout from the candidates' perspectives is exactly who it is that is more likely to vote. While Republicans are continuing to give more thought to the election than Democrats -- a key predictor of turnout -- Republicans are losing the edge on enthusiasm they appeared to have in January.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 21-23, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,518 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 ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the total sample of 683 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, the margin of error is ±5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the total sample of 677 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, the margin of error is ±5 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 the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

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