Lack of enthusiasm? It's the Democrats who have a problem.

Plenty of Republicans are unhappy with their choices for president. But Republican and Republican-leaning voters are still more enthusiastic about voting in November than their Democratic counterparts.

Jae C. Hong/AP
Polls show that Republicans are not overly enthusiastic about their presidential candidates, shown here at a debate in Mesa, Ariz. But they're still more enthusiastic about voting in November than Democrats.

All the Republicans depressed about this primary season – a.k.a., the circular firing squad – should step back from the ledge. It’s Democratic voters who suffer from an enthusiasm gap, not Republicans.

True, plenty of Republican voters are telling pollsters they wish other candidates were running.  A Gallup poll last week found 55 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning independents feel that way. But when it comes to voting in November, they’re more enthusiastic than the Democrats.

Some 53 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners say they’re “more enthusiastic than usual about voting,” compared with just 45 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners, according to data from a USA Today/Gallup poll released Thursday. 

In addition, Republicans are more enthusiastic now about voting than they were four years ago, when Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee were duking it out for the Republican nomination. In February 2008, only 44 percent of Republicans reported more enthusiasm than usual.

But no party today is as enthusiastic about voting as the Democrats were four years ago, when 79 percent said they were more enthusiastic than usual about voting.

“The enthusiasm question is important because, in the last several presidential and midterm elections, the party whose rank-and-file members showed the most enthusiasm about voting toward the end of the campaign either gained congressional seats or won the presidency,” writes Gallup senior editor Lydia Saad.

On the Democratic side, Gallup finds that important groups that were exceptionally enthusiastic four years ago – nonwhites and 18-to-29-year-olds – no longer are. Today, their mood is on a par with that of whites and older adults.

But the playing field for measuring partisan enthusiasm may not be completely fair. After all, Republicans are engaged in their party’s nomination battle, while Democrats already know President Obama will be their nominee.

And even with their current enthusiasm gap, Gallup trial heats of different Republican candidates against Mr. Obama show a statistical dead heat. So it may be that Republicans will need an even higher enthusiasm gap in November to beat Mr. Obama, Ms. Saad writes.

“Where these enthusiasm figures stand after the GOP nomination is decided – and certainly in the fall after the dust settles from both parties' conventions and news coverage of the two parties has evened out – will be more telling, and could, in fact, be determinant of who wins,” Saad concludes.

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