A couple of months ago, I noted (based on a Research 2000/Daily Kos poll) that although Republicans were more likely to turn out in the midterms, that was balanced by the fact that there were fewer Republicans than Democrats. Multiply likelihood of voting by number of partisans, and the GOP advantage was only one point.
That’s still the case. According to the Gallup/USA Today poll—not to be compared to the other one, which had different questions and a different sample; I’m just making a general point—69 percent of Republican voters are enthusiastic about voting, only 57 percent of Democrats. (I get those numbers from Nate Silver, who I assume subscribes to a fuller version of the Gallup poll than USA Today is showing.) But only 28 percent of the sample self-identify as Republicans; 32 percent are Democrats. If we assume that only enthusiasts will vote and multiply it out, the poll predicts that Republicans will send 19 percent of registered voters to the polls in November—and Democrats, 18 percent.
Nate argues that what matters is the ratio of turnout levels, not the cardinal gap. True. But in using for his example a hypothetical electorate of “50 Republicans and 50 Democrats,” he obscures a crucial point. Democrats have more trouble motivating our base because it’s less homogeneous, and its less homogeneous because the Democratic party is larger. We don’t need to have the same intensity that they have in order to win. Conversely, the Democrats’ Party ID has gone down as our intensity has gone up. For better or for worse, we’re becoming somewhat more like the other guys.
Again, a one-point disadvantage is nothing to crow about. Independents are still very wobbly. And I wish the party ID gap were even larger (though it has been in some other recent polls). This will be a very, very tough election. But let’s not panic for the wrong reasons. The Republicans won’t win by bringing to the picnic more crabapples than we have apples.