Will Democrats Turn Out?

Scott Clement unpacks yesterday’s WaPo/ABC poll, which included bad numbers for Democrats. What it may mean for turnout:

While nearly seven in 10 of all registered voters say they are “absolutely certain” to vote in November, several key Democratic constituencies are much less committed to voting. Barely half of voters ages 18 to 39 are certain about voting (53 percent) and 55 percent of non-whites describe themselves as certain to cast a ballot. By contrast, more than seven in 10 whites and voters older than 40 say they will definitely cast ballots — both groups that have favored Republicans in the past two elections.

The turnout gap is smaller among self-identified partisans, with Democrats six percentage points less apt than Republicans to be certain voters (72 percent vs. 78 percent). Closing that gap, however, could be difficult, given that Democrats are more than twice as apt to rate themselves “50-50” or less likely to vote; 15 percent of Democrats say this, compared with 5 percent of Republicans.

Zeke Miller uses another poll to read likely voter tea leaves:

Facing an uphill battle to hold the Senate, the Democratic Party may be in for a wakeup call from young voters, according to a new poll conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Just 23 percent of the key Democratic-leaning demographic of 18-29 year-olds say they will definitely vote in the midterms this fall. At this point in 2010, 31 percent said they would definitely go to the polls, but only 24 percent ultimately voted. Additionally, Republican-leaning 18-29 year olds are significantly more enthusiastic about voting this fall.

Boer Deng notes that young voters, “despite casting ballots in limited numbers, can make a difference in tight races”:

Tight races abound this year, especially in the Senate, where Democrats have more seats to lose. History says that the president’s party is set for a drubbing during a midterm year. So it is worrying for Democrats that fewer of their young supporters seem to care. In fact, they are disillusioned with politics all together. The Harvard poll found that trust in political institutions has fallen to a historic low of 31 percent. Young people, no matter their political philosophy, are cynical about American democracy today: 62 percent think elected officials enter politics for a “selfish reason,” and few would run for office themselves. They can be hardly expected to canvass for votes, if that’s the case.

Sargent adds his two cents:

In short, this is more evidence the electorate is likely to tilt older, whiter, redder, and more male. Yet at the same time, Dems are more trusted than Republicans to handle the nation’s main problems (40-34), more trusted to help the middle class (52-32), more trusted on the minimum wage (49-33); and more trusted on health care (43-35). Meanwhile, women trust Dems over Republicans on their issues by 54-27. (Republicans win on guns and the deficit.)

All of this underscores what Ed Kilgore and Sasha Issenberg have been arguing: That if Dems are going to have any chance of offsetting the “midterm dropoff” among their core voters, issues alone aren’t going to do it. The sheer grunt work of contacting voters again and again and urging them out to the polls is what it will take, and it won’t be easy. The one bit of good news is that Democrats are aware of this and are planning accordingly.

Bouie warns the GOP not to get cocky:

[I]f I were a Republican strategist, I would advise my clients to ease up on the anti-Obamacare rhetoric. … As a whole, the public opposes repeal and doesn’t support the GOP’s scorched-earth approach to the law. If the GOP claims a mandate for their opposition, it risks a repeat of 2011, when it destroyed its standing with voters through a series of stunt votes and standoffs. This didn’t doom its presidential chances the following year, but it was an unnecessary obstacle.