The GOP’s midterm enthusiasm advantage, in 2 charts

Who's pumped up for the 2014 midterm elections? Republicans more than Democrats right now.

The latest sign comes in a new Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday that shows the midterm enthusiasm battle is tilted in the GOP's favor. Sixty-three percent of Republicans say they are looking forward to the midterm elections, compared to just 53 percent of Democrats.

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That's roughly on par with January of 2010, the year Republicans made historic gains in the U.S. House. Back then, Pew found that 60 percent of Republicans were looking forward to the midterms; 50 percent of Democrats said the same thing.

What matters more is how those registered to vote feel. On that front, Republicans have an advantage, too. Thirty-six percent of Republican voters said they are very or extremely enthusiastic about voting for Congress, according to a December CNN/ORC International poll. Just 22 percent of Democratic voters said the same thing.

A December Pew/USA Today poll found that 53 percent of Republican and GOP-leaning voters said they were very enthusiastic about voting in the midterms. Forty-seven percent of Democrats said the same thing.

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The good news for Democrats is that the 53/47 split isn't as one-sided as the 57/43 split in favor of Republican voters four years ago.

But for a Democratic Party that is 1) Clinging to long-shot hopes of retaking the House majority which may represent President Obama's last best chance to advance a second-term legislative agenda and 2) Sporting a narrower advantage in the Senate than they were four years ago, that's hardly a reason to celebrate.

Midterm elections are about political parties turning out their bases, which are often motivated by opposing the other party. This was the case in 2006 when voters fed up with the policies of George W. Bush -- most notably the Iraq war -- sent a loud and clear message by handing Democrats control of the House and Senate. In 2010, opposition to Obama propelled Republicans to a 63-seat gain in the House.

That's why GOP leaders wants to keep their foot on the gas when it comes to assailing President Obama's signature health-care law. The law is unpopular and has taken a toll on the image of both the president and the Democrats who voted for it.

Democrats, meanwhile, are looking for their own rallying cry. That explains politically why they are leaning heavily into income inequality as a theme on which to pummel Republicans.

Nine months is a long time, and a lot can change before November. And a change in the political climate is what Democrats -- more than Republicans -- are hoping for right now.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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