The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Democrats are more enthusiastic about voting in midterms, poll shows

Voters cast absentee ballots in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, a month before the 2012 election. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

With less than four months until the midterm elections, it looks as though Democrats have a significant edge in enthusiasm, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll this month.

But the Democrats’ advantage is smaller in battleground congressional districts.

Overall, 46 percent of registered voters say that it is “extremely” important to vote in this year’s midterm elections. This rises to 58 percent among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents compared with 38 percent of Republican leaners.

The partisan gap shrinks a bit across the 58 congressional districts defined as “toss up” or “leaning” toward one party’s candidate or another, according to the Cook Political Report (as of June 20). Among Democratic leaners in battlegrounds, 59 percent say that it’s extremely important to vote in midterms, and 46 percent of Republican leaners in battlegrounds say the same.

Put another way, while Democratic-leaning voters are just about as likely to say it is extremely important to vote regardless of whether they live in a battleground district, Republican-leaning voters in battleground districts are more motivated to vote than Republicans who live in less competitive areas (46 percent vs. 37 percent).

This is just one measure of interest in election turnout, and the partisan enthusiasm gap can range significantly depending on the metric. For instance, state polling in competitive U.S. Senate races by SurveyMonkey for Axios released this week found that on average, Democratic and Republican voters were about equal in saying that they are “certain” to vote, but more Democrats said they are “more enthusiastic” about voting this year than in past congressional elections.

Gender and opinions on President Trump also factor in. For one, 54 percent of men say it’s extremely important to vote in midterms this year, compared with 39 percent of women. That’s a gap that runs against the fact that women typically turn out at higher rates, as The Post’s Dan Balz wrote last weekend. College graduates are also more likely to say it’s extremely important (58 percent) than voters without college degrees (40 percent), which is consistent with higher turnout rates among people with more formal education.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, voters with strongly positive and negative views of Trump say it’s more important to vote this year than those with less passionate views. Among those who “approve somewhat” or “disapprove somewhat,” an identical 22 percent say it’s extremely important to vote. And a 55 percent majority of those who strongly approve of Trump say it’s extremely important to turn out, rising to 68 percent among voters who strongly disapprove of Trump.

While strong Trump supporters come fairly close to strong Trump opponents on this measure, their smaller share of the electorate illustrates a key factor driving Democrats’ turnout edge. While 21 percent of registered voters strongly approve of Trump, 38 percent strongly disapprove.

This Washington Post-Schar School poll was conducted from June 27 through July 2 among 1,302 registered voters, including an oversample of 774 voters in battleground districts. Margin of error for registered voters is plus or minus five percentage points, both overall and among those in battleground districts. Among the 528 registered voters in non-battleground districts, the margin of error is plus or minus six points.

Scott Clement contributed to this report.