In my last post, I talked about the various polls showing a “lack of enthusiasm” the Democratic side, and the pundits portrayal of this as portending “trouble” for the President in next year’s election. The point I made was that most people aren’t paying attention to the election next year at this time. After all, Democrats already know who is going to be running on the Democratic Party line. However, Republicans have an open season going to select a challenger to the President, which has been receiving a lot of media coverage over the past few months. All of which should mean that the public is deeply interested in the race, and are starting to figure out who is the “likely choice.” Except, outside of the party activists and the media, no one is paying attention to the Republicans, either.
What makes me say that? There was a poll out this past week from Pew Research Center. What it showed was:
As in previous Republican presidential campaigns, most Americans (54%) are able to name at least one of the GOP candidates unprompted. However, smaller percentages name the leading candidates than in previous Republican races.
In other words, ask members of the public to come up with a name of someone who is running for President on the Republican side, and they can come up with a name of someone. That’s unsurprising, given the number of people who are running, and the media coverage. What’s interesting is that only two candidates are mentioned by more than one in four people, while the rest mostly end up with less than 10% of the mentions.
Think about that for a moment. There have been several nationally televised debates. There’s been media coverage and speculation for the past few months of the race. There have been a couple of state straw polls, and “preference votes by various organizations. All of which, one would think, would raise the name recognition and profile of the various candidates in the public mind. Yet almost half the people polled can’t name a Republican candidate, and an overwhelming majority can’t name the ones who have been winning those straw polls and preference votes.
That is what tells me is that the public isn’t paying a lot of attention the the Republicans. While this may not be a good thing – after all, the increasingly nutty things they’re saying make you veer between laughter and horror – it’s showing that the “enthusiasm gap” the pundits like to pontificate on is simply a function of the public’s unwillingness to pay a lot of attention to something that is almost a year off.
Overall, 21% of the public say they followed news about the potential presidential candidates very closely last week, according to the latest weekly News Interest Index survey conducted June 30- July 3 among 1,001 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
Interest has been at about this level for the past several months.
I’m a political junkie, and I fall into that “21%” group that the polls say follow campaign news “closely.” But look again. That means that 4 out of 5 people aren’t following it closely. Even among Republicans, they’re not following it all that closely. The biggest group is the Tea Party members and sympathizers, and even there, over 60% aren’t paying much attention. That will change as the actual primaries start to take place, and the front runner (or runners) emerge from them. Will that translate into enthusiasm? Maybe.
That’s why I don’t pay much attention to the pundits, when they start blathering about the Democrats’ enthusiasm. It’s not just the Democrats, it’s the Republicans as well. It’s not an “enthusiasm gap.” It’s just normal for this time of an election season, and trying to make it a problem is just the pundits way of justifying their existence.