One of the great mysteries bedeviling election oracles is the “excitement” factor. Excited voters, it is thought, are more likely to turn out and vote. But excitement is very difficult to measure, either through polling or observation.
One reason it’s tough to measure through polls in the cell-phone era is that pollsters can’t get most of the people they contact to respond at all – the actual response rate has been tagged at roughly 9 percent this year. This has led some analysts to conclude that only fairly excited people, very cranky people, and unenthusiastic people with lots of time on their hands bother to talk to pollsters.
How about judging excitement by observation? That’s got to be even less scientific than polling, but it does seem as if Romney rallies have been larger and more energetic than Obama gatherings in the final days of the campaign. Romney’s pulling huge crowds on the front lines of battleground states; Obama’s eking out sub-par attendance at rear-guard actions in states that weren’t supposed to be swinging.
Here’s a scene from Romney’s closing rally in New Hampshire on Monday night, in which a 10,000-seat venue was filled to the rafters, and thousands more waited outside (and it’s pretty chilly up in New Hampshire at the moment.)
And here’s Obama’s half-empty arena in Ohio, whose empty seats he could not fill even with help from Bruce Springsteen.
(Both photos courtesy of Breitbart.com.) Not to read too much into it, but it’s an interesting contrast, combined with the undisputed fact that Obama is pulling much smaller crowds than he did in 2008. It seems safe enough to speculate that there’s no enormous advantage in enthusiasm for Obama’s voters, as there was last time… and I don’t believe I’ve seen a single predictive model of this election that asserts Obama can win if Republican turnout equals or exceeds Democrat turnout. We’ll know soon enough.
One other thought about voter enthusiasm: it seems to me that a lot of pollsters are underestimating the enthusiasm of religious voters to turn out against the author of ObamaCare, whose offenses against religious liberty remain very much on their minds. It’s also likely that true independents of the “get government out of my life” variety would be energetic about voting against the master of the all-consuming Leviathan State.
On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be anything close to the 2008 enthusiasm for Obama among young voters and black voters, both of whom have suffered enormously under his policies. Has black unemployment surged higher under any other President in recent memory, particularly when viewed relative to the general population?
And young voters are always telling pollsters that they seriously care about long-term issues, such as economic growth, job creation, and fiscally responsible government. The Obama 2012 campaign has been all about calling their bluff, and insisting that they really care about free condoms, anti-growth environmentalist claptrap, and voting for The Cool Guy. (Why, it’s just like losing your virginity!) Are young voters really excited by that stuff, or are they truly serious-minded enough to reject it?