WASHINGTON — Republicans enjoy a substantial "enthusiasm gap" in which their supporters are more likely to vote in this fall's elections for control of Congress than Democratic voters, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.
The poll found that 51 percent of Republicans are very enthusiastic about voting, a large edge over the 32 percent of independents who are very enthusiastic and almost twice the 28 percent of Democrats.
That large gap — a strong indicator that Republicans are more likely to vote — dominates the landscape despite claims by top Democrats that they're slowly but surely getting their voters more excited and closing the gap.
"We're beginning to see some signs of progress out there," David Plouffe told reporters Thursday; he was President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign manager and is now a top adviser to Democrats. He provided no polls to back up the claim.
"We're not seeing that," said Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College, which conducted the national poll.
"In fact, the gap among Republican voters and Democratic voters remains very wide and really continues to put Republicans in the driver's seat as the fall campaign heads toward November," Miringoff said.
The poll also showed that the "Pledge to America" platform from Republicans in the House of Representatives is helping to solidify support for Republicans among the most enthusiastic voters.
It's had little impact among the entire population of registered voters — 63 percent say they've paid little or no attention to it, and they split evenly, 39-39, over whether it makes them more or less likely to support a candidate, the poll found.
Yet among those most excited about voting, 56 percent say they've heard about the pledge, and by a margin of 52 percent to 30 percent, they say they're more likely to vote for a pledge-supporting candidate.
The pledge promises to cut government spending, repeal the recently enacted health care law, and end government control of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Obama's criticized it as the same agenda the Republican Party pursued before he took office.
The survey also yields a more nuanced public opinion about Obama than many polls report. This one found that 50 percent of registered voters disapproved of the way Obama is doing his job and 43 percent approved.
Yet a solid 61 percent majority said that he inherited more than caused the lingering problems in the economy, a slight 51-45 percent majority thinks his approach should be given more time to work, and when asked their overall impression of him, 50 percent said it was favorable and 47 percent unfavorable.
Moreover, if the election were held today, he'd handily win a hypothetical three-way race against Republican Sarah Palin and independent Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City. Obama would win 44 percent, Palin 29 percent and Bloomberg 18 percent.
Obama's strongest group: He'd get 79 percent of Democratic women. His weakest: 8 percent of Republican women.
Palin would win 62 percent of Republicans, 6 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of independents. Her strongest: Republican women, 64 percent. Her weakest: Democratic women, 6 percent.
Bloomberg would take 11 percent of Democrats, 21 percent of Republicans and 23 percent of independents. His strongest base: independent men, 29 percent. His weakest: Democratic women, 11 percent.
This survey of 1,030 United States residents, including 829 registered voters, was conducted on Sept. 30 through Oct 5. Residents 18 years of age and older were interviewed by telephone. Telephone numbers were selected based upon a list of telephone exchanges from throughout the nation. The exchanges were selected to ensure that each region was represented in proportion to its population. To increase coverage, this land-line sample was supplemented by respondents reached through random dialing of cell phone numbers. The two samples were then combined. For registered voters, the margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The error margin increases for cross-tabulations.
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