The Democratic Intensity Advantage

Jeff Alworth

There are many indications that there's a vast gulf of intensity in this election--everyone knows Dems are fired up and ready to go while the GOP is ... well, looking for the Geritol.  So evident is this reality that Republicans like Gordon Smith are trying their best to run on the Obama ticket.  Among popular adjectives in GOP ads, "Republican" ranks near the bottom.  You knew all this.  But yesterday, Pew released numbers on the intensity gap, and they were shocking. 

In what has now become a familiar finding, equal proportions of the party faithful support their party candidate--82% of GOP for McCain and 82% of Dems for Obama.  But that doesn't tell the the full picutre. In a series of questions they've asked during June in elections going back to '92, Pew measured the level of interest in related areas. And on these measures, Democrats are winning sometimes huge margins--and in every case the shift from 2004 is in the Democratic direction.  (Pew's numbers focus on the national races, but this GOP malaise must be regarded as very bad news for GOP candidates in state and federal races.)

Given quite a lot of thought to the election:


More interested than four years ago:Intensity_gap


Following election news closely:


Satisfied with candidate:Intensity_gap_historical


Really matters who wins:


Support candidate strongly:


If you're one of those people who don't like to read tables, let me highlight one very serious finding: only 49 percent of Republicans--a minority--are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with John McCain.

If the election were held right now, Obama would have a huge advantage, thanks to the current economic troubles.  The biggest concern by a country mile is the economy, which nearly half of respondents (44%) cited as the most important.These voters give Obama a 20% advantage on ability to handle the economy (51% to 31%).  McCain holds an even larger advantage on terrorism (55% to 31%), but only 3% of Americans consider this the main issue in the election.  Only three percent?--that's a rather remarkable finding, isn't it?  On Iraq, which 19% consider the central issue, McCain enjoys an 8-point advantage.

Other Findings
The report is absolutely packed with data, so stats geeks should check it out.  I will include a few of the findings I found intriguing, but I skipped over about three times as many that were almost as interesting.

Fascinating stuff.  Go have a look.

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    Jeff, this is interesting stuff.

    To put a home spin on your analysis, based on numbers from the SOS, Democratic turnout was 20 points higher than for Republicans in Oregon.

    <h2>PARTY REG VOTED PCT</h2>

    DEM 875,080 653,600 74.7% REP 671,532 374,127 55.7%

    To put it another way, nearly as many Democrats voted in the Democratic Primary as there are Republicans registered in the entire state (653k vs 671k).

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    Wow. If you don't like reading tables, just click on that pink & blue chart.

    It's astonishing really. For at least the last four presidential elections, the intensity advantage went to the GOP -- but this year, it's Democratic... and stronger than it ever was for the GOP.

  • Unrepentant Liberal (unverified)

    Unofficial observation on the roadside political signs on I-5 in Washington during my trip to Seattle and back this week: Only one (I didn't write down his or her name, sorry) of the candidates identified himself or herself as a "republican" candidate for office.

    Time was not so long ago when they bragged they were the GOP candidate. Now they don't want to even admit they know one. Sweet.

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    It's astonishing really. For at least the last four presidential elections, the intensity advantage went to the GOP -- but this year, it's Democratic... and stronger than it ever was for the GOP.

    It is astonishing. It's interesting how in the moment, we don't always recognize the significance of certain trends or events. In a certain sense we can't know. It may be that events turn sharply against the Dems for some reason and we do end up in yet another nail-biter. But it could be that we're in the middle of one of the most important change elections in American history. Based just on the level of intensity, you have to give the second option at least a reasonable possibility.

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    I spoke this week with a friend of mine who works in DC politics-he's a Republican. He told me that he thinks that it will be many, many years before the Republican Party has control of either chamber of Congress.

    <h2>The damage they've done (led by Bush) is just too great. And the public perception of the Republican brand is as bad now as its ever been.</h2>

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