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Early gauge of 2018 turnout shows good signs for Democrats

SCOTT CLEMENT
The Washington Post

February 04. 2018 11:46PM




WASHINGTON — Democrats are just about as likely as Republicans to say they plan to vote in this year’s congressional elections, a break from the two previous midterm elections, in which Republicans were significantly more inclined to vote, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in January.

Democratic congressional leaders hope anti-Trump sentiment can boost the party to regain control of the House and possibly the U.S. Senate, and the poll finds many fellow partisans feel a similar urgency. Just over half of Democratic-leaning registered voters, 51 percent, say it is “more important to vote” this year than in previous elections, compared with 34 percent of Republican-leaning voters who say the same.

In the past two midterm years, Republicans parlayed heightened conservative enthusiasm and disapproval of President Barack Obama into consecutive victories and control of the House and Senate. Post-ABC polls in 2014 found that, on average, Republican-leaning voters were 10 points more likely to say they were “absolutely certain to vote” than were voters who leaned toward the Democratic Party. In 2010, Republicans held a 12-point advantage on this question.

But turnout appears to be shaping up differently this year, with President Donald Trump in the White House and most Americans disapproving of his performance. Sixty-five percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent voters say they are certain to vote, compared with 63 percent of Republican-leaning voters.

Among Republicans, motivation to vote appears to be down from the past two cycles, while Democrats have changed less, although this may reflect the fact that the surveys in previous years were conducted later in those election years.

Turnout in midterm elections overall is far lower than turnout in Presidential-election years, with fewer than 4 in 10 eligible voters casting ballots in 2014.

Enthusiasm to vote this year ranges sharply within each party. The Post-ABC poll finds 54 percent of Americans who say that at the least they will “probably vote” also say it is more important to vote in 2018 than in previous midterm elections, while 44 percent say it is about as important as in the past and only 1 percent say it is less important.

Within the GOP, Trump’s most devoted supporters are also most committed to turning out, with 74 percent of Republican-leaning voters who “strongly approve” of his job performance saying they are certain to turn out. But among the more than 4 in 10 Republican-leaning voters who approve “somewhat” of Trump or disapprove, fewer than half say they are certain to vote (48 percent).

Two Democratic-leaning groups that have turned out at lower rates in past years also express tepid interest in voting this year. Fewer than half of registered voters ages 18-39, 46 percent, say they are certain to vote, compared with 68 percent of voters ages 40-64 and 77 percent of seniors. And nonwhite voters are nine points less likely than white to say they plan to vote (56 percent to 65 percent).

Low turnout among either group could weaken Democrats’ chances this fall, as younger voters favor Democrats by a 20-point margin when asked which party’s candidate they support, while nonwhites favor Democrats by a 50-point margin.

The Post-ABC poll found Democrats holding a 12-point advantage over Republicans when registered voters were asked which party’s candidates they will support in their congressional districts, the so-called “generic ballot” question that has been correlated with the number of seats parties win.


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