For awhile now, one of the Republican Party’s greatest assets has been the Democratic Party. The GOP nominates perhaps the most controversial presidential candidate in modern history, Donald Trump, and the Democrats respond with Hillary Clinton, who neglects to campaign in key states like Wisconsin. This pattern seems to be continuing with the Supreme Court confirmation battle over Judge Brett Kavanaugh, as a new poll shows the Democrats’ enthusiasm advantage for the midterm elections being almost entirely wiped out.
The live landline and cell phone poll, conducted on October 1 of 996 registered voters by National Public Radio, PBS News Hour, and Marist University, asked both Democrat and Republican voters how important they viewed the upcoming November midterm elections, a measure of “enthusiasm” often viewed as affecting how hard each party’s voters will work to turn out their base at the polls.
Back in mid-July, there was a ten-point enthusiasm advantage for the Democrats, 78 percent to 68 percent. The new October poll dropped that down to two points (82 percent for Democrats and 80 percent for Republicans), within the poll’s 4.2 percent margin of error. In other words, the enthusiasm level between the two parties is a statistical tie.
Part of the Democrats’ vulnerability on this enthusiasm issue stems from weaknesses among some key segments of their base: only 60 percent of Democrats under 30 and only 61 percent of Latino Democrats say they view the November elections as very important.
The Democrats are also losing ground regarding which party Americans want to have the majority control in Congress, slipping from a twelve-point advantage in September to only six points in this latest October poll.
Andrew Clark, who was part of the digital communications team for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, noted that Democrats could plausibly argue that the Kavanaugh hearings had energized their base too, but Democrats’ enthusiasm for opposing — excuse me, resisting — Trump has been baked into the cake for polls for months.
Democrats argue that Kavanaugh energizes their base too – but there's a question of diminishing returns for Democrats when it comes to voter enthusiasm. The "Democrats are energized!!" argument has already been built into the polls all year. GOP had way more to gain.
— Andrew Clark (@AndrewHClark) October 3, 2018
To be fair, the poll did not dive into the reasons why these numbers might be shifting, but with the Kavanaugh hearings dominating the news for the past few weeks, it’s a logical conclusion that they had an effect. Many Republicans remain skeptical, if not outright opposed, to Trump, but watching Democrats and the media engage in absurd attempts at character assassination may be galvanizing Republican voters to strike back in November.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.