One of my criticisms of the media polling this year is that, whether intentional or not, they paint an unrealistic portrait of the electorate this year. In the vast majority of cases, media polling shows Democrats matching or even exceeding the turnout advantage they had in 2008. This not only flies in the face of common sense; it goes against ample evidence showing the GOP with an edge in voter enthusiasm. Indeed, this week, Pew Research released a new survey showing the GOP with a substantial lead on the question of whether a voter is likely to vote.
When the sample is narrowed to likely voters, the balance of opinion shifts slightly in Romney’s direction, as it did in early October. This reflects Romney’s turnout advantage over Obama, which could loom larger as Election Day approaches. In both October surveys, more Republicans and Republican leaners than Democrats and Democratic leaners are predicted to be likely voters. In September, the gap was more modest.
76% of Republican votes say they are likely to vote this year, up 7 points from September. Democrats who say they are likely to vote is unchanged since September at 62%. Almost 40% of Democrats say they are unlikely to vote or are unregistered. This 14 point edge for the GOP on those likely to vote obviates any chance for the Democrats to again enjoy a large turnout advantage.
Overall, the Pew survey finds the race tied, with Romney and Obama each drawing 47%. The sample has a slight, but not unreasonable, Dem advantage. Romney is actually benefiting from a gender gap, winning the support of men by 7 points, while trailing women by just 6. Romney also holds a big lead with Independents, beating Obama by 8 points, 48-40.
Asked who would better handle the deficit, voters pick Romney by a 14 point margin, 51-37. On improving the job situation, Romney edges Obama by 8 points, 50-42. Big leads on the two most critical issues of the election gives Romney a key advantage going into Tuesday.
The race remains very close, but Romney seems to be gathering momentum at the climactic moment of the campaign. Rising GOP enthusiasm can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, creating an electorate favorable to Romney. If the enthusiasm edge holds through Tuesday, the race will break open for Romney on election day.