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High Enthusiasm About Voting in U.S. Heading Into 2020

High Enthusiasm About Voting in U.S. Heading Into 2020

Story Highlights

  • 64% are "more enthusiastic" about voting compared with previous elections
  • Reports of greater enthusiasm usually higher closer to Election Day
  • Partisan gap in reports of enthusiasm for voting unusually narrow

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Roughly two in three Americans (64%) say they are "more enthusiastic" about voting compared with previous elections, while 28% are "less enthusiastic" and 6% say they currently have the same level of enthusiasm as they have in the past. Americans' self-reported enthusiasm is among the highest Gallup has measured across presidential election years, similar to the levels recorded near the end of the 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections. Enthusiasm was more subdued in 2000 and 2016.

Line graph. American’ enthusiasm for voting compared with previous elections.

These data are from an Oct. 14-31 Gallup poll, taken just before the one-year marker leading up to the 2020 presidential election. Gallup has asked Americans about their comparative levels of excitement for voting at various times over election seasons since 2000.

Reports of greater levels of enthusiasm about voting were highest on average throughout the year in 2008 when majorities of Americans said they were more enthusiastic in most polls. Some of the lowest figures Gallup recorded were the two measures taken in 2016, in May and November of that year, when less than half of Americans reported being more enthusiastic.

Reports of Greater Enthusiasm Usually Peak Closer to Election Day

That a solid majority of Americans currently report being more enthused about voting so long before the election is notable -- this measure usually registers its highest figures much closer to the election date.

On average, 52% of Americans have reported being more enthusiastic about voting when asked six months or more ahead of a presidential election, with 54% being more enthused between one and five months before an election. Reports of greater enthusiasm are highest less than one month before an election, at 61% on average.

U.S. Enthusiasm for Voting, Sorted by Distance From Election
% More enthusiastic
2019 Oct 14-31 64
2011 Nov 28-Dec 1 43
2011 Sep 15-18 48
2012 Feb 16-19 47
2008 Feb 8-10 62
2008 Jan 10-13 60
2004 Mar 26-28 51
2004 Jan 29-Feb 1 55
2000 Mar 10-12 37
Average 52
2016 May 18-22 46
2012 Jul 19-22 44
2008 Sep 5-7 62
2008 Jun 15-19 48
2004 Jul 30-Aug 1 67
2004 Jul 19-21 59
2012 Sep 24-27 53
2012 Aug 20-22 48
2008 Aug 30-31 51
2008 Aug 21-23 48
2004 Sep 3-5 64
2004 Aug 23-25 57
Average 54
2016 Nov 1-6 47
2012 Nov 3-4 62
2008 Oct 31-Nov 2 65
2008 Oct 23-26 67
2008 Oct 10-12 60
2004 Oct 14-16 65
Average 61

If that pattern holds as Election Day 2020 draws near, then 2020 may set a new standard for voting enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm Uptick Usually Higher Among Opposition Party -- But Not This Time

Currently, about two in three Republicans (66%) and Democrats (65%) report being more excited about voting than they were in previous elections. This differs from the typical pattern Gallup has seen over the years, whereby those who identify with the political party of the incumbent president have been less enthusiastic about voting than members of the opposing party. This is true whether that president is running for election or leaving office.

As Democratic President Bill Clinton was preparing to leave office, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents were more likely than Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents to express greater fervor for voting -- by 12 percentage points in both polls Gallup took leading up to the 2000 election.

This partisan gap was present throughout 2008 when Republican President George W. Bush's term was ending: Democrats were more likely to report an increase in their enthusiasm for voting than Republicans in all nine polls Gallup conducted that year.

And during both elections when Democratic President Barack Obama was in office, Democrats expressed less enthusiasm for voting than Republicans. This was true during Obama's reelection campaign in 2012 as well as in the election to replace him in 2016 -- though the partisan gap narrowed just before Election Day 2016.

Line graph. Americans’ enthusiasm for voting, by political affiliation.

That Republicans and Democrats are now about equally likely to say they are more excited about voting in the upcoming 2020 election is uncommon, but not unprecedented: 2004 was a mixed bag. In that year, when a Republican was in the White House, Republicans were less likely to express enthusiasm about voting than Democrats in three of Gallup's seven polls leading up to the election that year, while they were more enthusiastic in one. In the remaining three polls, reports of increased enthusiasm were about equal among the two groups.

Bottom Line

Given how much time remains before the 2020 presidential election, it's possible that Americans' reports of increased fervor for voting could soar even higher -- perhaps even reaching new heights in Gallup's 20-year trend. High voter turnout was reported in 2019 statewide elections in Virginia this week as well as in Kentucky, where turnout for a gubernatorial election in the Bluegrass State was at its highest in nearly a quarter of a century. That comes on the heels of the increased voter participation in the 2018 midterm elections, the highest in a midterm election in over a century.

History would suggest that Democrats would be more keyed up to vote than Republicans, but that isn't the case in this early marker taken nearly a year before Election Day 2020. Though a lot can change in a year, the current politically polarized environment -- with added tensions from a congressional impeachment inquiry -- could be resulting in voters of all political stripes' sense that a lot is at stake in their upcoming vote.

View complete question responses and trends.

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