Voters are enthusiastic about voting in November. Boy, are they enthusiastic...well, at least compared to how they felt two months ago.
Since early February, Gallup shows Republican enthusiasm rising by 14%, while Democratic enthusiasm has risen by 16%. Republicans still have the edge: 69% are enthusiastic about voting, while 57% of Democrats are. The enthusiastic/not enthusiastic differential benefits Republicans, too: GOP voters are at +46%, while Democrats are at +27%.
New CNN polling corroborates, but the findings are less drastic. CNN measures enthusiasm by asking if respondents are extremely, very, somewhat, not too, or not at all enthusiastic about voting--so it's difficult to produce a direct comparison.
The "extremely" and "very" responses have gone up 6% for Republicans and 5% for Democrats since CNN's last polling in early January; 55% of Republicans now fall into that category, vs. 36% for Democrats. The GOP differential [("extremely" + "very") - ("not too" + "not at all")] is + 34%, vs. +13 for Democrats.
(Gallup surveyed 968 registered voters, margin of error +/-4%; CNN surveyed 935, margin of error +/-3%.)
The parties are statistically tied in generic House balloting (see the current average from Pollster.com), and enthusiasm definitely benefits Republicans at the moment.
But poll respondents of both partisan stripes are feeling more enthusiastic about voting in the November elections. I'm personally a bit skeptical about the ability of polls to predict voting patterns, especially this far out. It would seem to take a certain psychological makeup to talk to a CNN or Gallup pollster about one's voting preferences for November so far from the election date.
The obvious explanation is that the culmination of a year-long fight over health care, a fight that entailed amped-up efforts to grab the public's attention and drag it toward the political arena, has led more Americans to feel energized and engaged about the political system--that it has reified partisan leanings into a desire for action and participation--and that the long-advertised changes to the nation's health care system have made the public more concerned about who they elect, whether it's because they're Democrats who feel a renewed belief that voting for Democrats can institute change (or that they've been so disgusted by the GOP opposition), or because they're Republicans who want to fight the industry reforms and government subsidies that ObamaCare will usher in.
The data accompanies a quite tangible buzz around health care, including the spate of threats and vandalism against Democratic members.
But maybe it's all because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," nuclear treaty progress with Russia, or Craig Becker's recess appointment to the National Labor Relations Board. Or maybe all those Census forms have reminded people that the government exists. It's hard to know for sure.