President Obama still inspires more enthusiasm than former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, but the gap is shrinking.

(Charles Dharapak/AP)

That gap widens when you look at the “very enthusiastic.” Fifty-one percent of Obama backers are very enthusiastic, compared to 38 percent of Romney backers.

When we asked the same question in May, the same 51 percent of Obama fans said they were very enthusiastic, but only 26 percent of Romney supporters said the same. Overall, in May, 93 percent of Obama supporters said they were enthusiastic compared to 75 percent of Romney supporters.

At about this point in the 2004 campaign, 90 percent of George W. Bush supporters were enthusiastic about him, ditto for John Kerry supporters. But among the very enthusiastic, the gap was greater — 49 percent for Bush compared to 41 percent for Kerry.

That’s about where Obama and Romney are now. In 2004, the gap widened as the campaign went on; by September, 65 percent of likely voters backing Bush were very enthusiastic compared to 42 percent of Kerry supporters.

Obama also enjoyed a wide gap over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008; an August poll found that Obama’s supporters were about twice as likely to describe themselves as “very enthusiastic,” 52 to 28 percent. (Question wording was slightly different between 2012 and previous elections.)

Democrats have had the edge in enthusiasm since the GOP primary ended.

A recent Pew survey found that Republicans are more likely to say that the 2012 campaign is “dull.” Most Romney supporters are voting against Obama, while most Obama supporters are voting for the president. Those numbers, too, mirror the 2004 election, when antipathy towards Bush was not enough for Democrats to put Kerry in office.

Right now, enthusiasm for Romney is growing. And Gallup finds that in swing states, Romney has the edge with “extremely enthusiastic” vs. “very enthusiastic” voters. So while Romney has some work to do, he can still catch up with Obama before the fall and avoid Kerry’s fate.