What Happened to Republican Voter Enthusiasm?

According to Gallup, we’re not all that excited about voting in 2014. In fact, voter enthusiasm is “down sharply” since 2010.

A majority of U.S. registered voters, 53%, say they are less enthusiastic about voting than in previous elections, while 35% are more enthusiastic. This 18-percentage-point enthusiasm deficit is larger than what Gallup has measured in prior midterm election years, particularly in 2010 when there was record midterm enthusiasm.

Among registered voters, 42% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents currently say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting, while 50% are less enthusiastic, resulting in an eight-point enthusiasm deficit. But Democrats are even less enthusiastic, with a 23-point deficit (32% more enthusiastic vs. 55% less enthusiastic).

Typically, the party whose supporters have an advantage in enthusiasm has done better in midterm elections. Republicans had decided advantages in enthusiasm in 1994, 2002, and especially 2010 — years in which they won control of the House of Representatives or expanded on their existing majority. Democrats had the advantage in 2006, the year they won control of the House. Neither party had a decided advantage in 1998, a year Democrats posted minimal gains in House seats.

I still think that Republicans will probably win big in 2014. But this lack of enthusiasm is not helping. And I don’t think it is hard to figure out why it is so lacking. Back in 2010, the Republican leadership wanted and even appreciated the help of the Tea Party. They even agreed to get rid of earmarks and went through a big public ritual of reading the Constitution (which did nothing to actually make the government more Constitutional, but it was a nice gesture).

Now everything has changed. The Republican establishment is openly warring against the Tea Party. The GOP is pushing Obama’s immigration agenda. Republican leadership has abandoned the task of fixing the nation’s budget.

All of this demoralizes conservatives. I suspect that most of it is intended to do so.