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An enthusiasm gap?

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* Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling takes a look at the Illinois results

I think [Tuesday] night’s Illinois primary results indicate some difficulties ahead in the state for Democrats that have nothing to do with who the winners and losers were.

Based on the current numbers 885,268 voters were cast in the Democratic primary for Senate compared to 736,137 on the Republican side. Those numbers are awfully close to each other for a state that’s overwhelmingly Democratic.

For sake of comparison the last time there were competitive Senate primaries on both sides in Illinois, in 2004 when Barack Obama was nominated, there were nearly twice as many votes cast in the Democratic primary as the Republican one. 1,242,996 voted in the Democratic race to 661,804 for the Republicans.

Last night’s turnout is yet another data point on the enthusiasm gap, showing that Republicans are much more excited about this year’s elections than Democrats, even in a deep blue state. We’ll have more analysis on last night’s results later today.

* Jonathan Chait at TNR adds….

So, to crunch the numbers, GOP primary turnout is up 11% over 2004. Democratic turnout has dropped 29%. If the Democrats let health care reform die, they’ll be looking at a turnout cataclysm.

I don’t disagree at all that there was an “enthusiasm gap” during the primary. But you can’t compare 2004 to 2010 because 2004 was a presidential year and by then this state pretty much despised George W. Bush and rocketed to the polls. Rather, you should match up non-presidential years. Also, the numbers used in those above stories for 2010 are a bit old. Here are total votes for governor in Republican and Democratic primaries since 1998…

1998 Republicans 707,406
1998 Democrats 950,890

2002 Republicans 917,828
2002 Democrats 1,252,516

2006 Republicans 735,810
2006 Democrats 944,381

2010 Republicans 765,534
2010 Democrats 912,695

Here’s one way to look at the numbers. In 1998, the Republican vote was 74 percent of the Democratic vote. In 2002, the GOP vote was 73 percent of the Democratic vote. In 2006, the Republican vote was 78 percent of the Democratic vote. And in 2010, the Republlican vote was 84 percent of the Democratic vote.

The Republicans won the governor’s race in 1998, despite that big disparity. Also, if you use Chait’s formula and apply it to apples and apples, there was a 4 percent increase in GOP turnout this year compared to four years ago, along with a 3.4 percent decrease in Democratic primary vote.

So, yeah, there is a noticeable enthusiasm gap. The Democrats have all sorts of historical and structural problems to overcome this year. But that enthusiasm gap is just not as huge as some might have it. [Hat tip: Progress Illinios.]

* So, what about that Republican turnout? Adam Andrzejewski had this to say

“We always knew that the Illinois Republican primary voter was an establishment voter, so we knew it was going to be a difficult task,” he told POLITICO.

Andrzejewski claimed that he had a “very motivated” base that came out heavily for
him but that there just weren’t enough of his supporters to make the math work.

“In two weeks we went from 7 percent to 15 percent, and that’s evidence of a motivated base and a lot of national media attention,” he said. “I finished within 5 points of all these established political names, and we’re leaving the race with our heads held high.”

“The tea party voters did turn out,” he added, “and I take a lot of credit for bringing new people into this Republican primary.”

I don’t know if he expanded the electorate or not. But he sure did very well in a bunch of counties, winning Madison, Macoupin, St. Clair, Jersey and Calhoun, among others.

Thoughts on all this?

posted by Rich Miller
Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 10:11 am


  1. I agree with Jensen and Chait: SLC is the least of IL dems problems, and stay or go he won’t be why they lose key offices this year.

    i am not happy with the political climate in illinois. i don’t see much getting done other than the sos of wasting time and burning up taxpayer money on nonsense. i hate it.

    Comment by Will County Woman Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 10:22 am

  2. Anjrzejewski did so well in St. Clair, Madison, etc was due to two things…

    First, he came down here probably more than any other Republican candidate for governor. He was down here almost every other week, doing various lunches, meet and greets, etc. He attended a lot of different meetings and really did work the Republican base in the Metro-East.

    Second, he got a lot of attention from the St Louis media, specifically the conservative media such as 97.1FM Talk. St Louis has a fairly active Tea Party group that supported him. Since the Metro-East relies on St Louis media for information (and the BND…) Andrzejewski got a lot of earned media play with the republican voters down here.

    Very few of the other Republican candidates made big dents in the Metro-East. Bill Brady will have to amp up the effort in order to do well in the general in the second largest population base in the state. On the plus side, he’s got Jason Plummer, who due to his Edwardsville tie, absolutely dominated this area.

    Comment by Nikoli Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 10:23 am

  3. After all the talk about an angry electorate, indifference still rules among the great majority.

    Comment by wordslinger Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 10:23 am

  4. “We always knew that the Illinois Republican primary voter was an establishment voter” says Adam A.

    I seem to recall a lot of conservative candidates asserted that they were going to win their primaries in a landslide because the typical Republican primary voter was conservative and they were also more motivated. Kirk, among others, proved that theory was way off.

    Comment by Anonymous Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 10:27 am

  5. I think it is also indicative that the DC folks automatically went to the last competitive “Senate” primary for comparison. Typical DC-think.

    In Illinois, we seem to care about our state and local races far more.

    So the 2006 comparison is apt. But maybe 2002 is even more apt (competitive Governor’s race). And then you do see a significant drop off in turnout.

    Comment by George Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 10:33 am

  6. =Kirk, among others, proved that theory was way off.=

    How so? Are you presuming that Kirk’s tally include no conservative votes?

    Comment by Brennan Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 10:33 am

  7. Adam made a real impact with his candidacy. At first he was seen as a dreamer with a checkbook, but as things went on, he earned respect from many establishment Republicans.

    One “establishment” candidate told me that if he won he wanted to find a place in his cabinet for Adam.

    Hopefully Adam will work with the GOP to expand his influence and not content himself with being a bomb-thrower on the outside. I didn’t vote for him, but I really think he has a future if he doesn’t get completely caught up with the angry far-right crowd.

    Comment by Adam Smith Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 10:33 am

  8. I think Adam did well in areas that are always very conservative. Metro East Republicans fit that mold. That also goes for Richland and Caly counties. Veeery conservative. So not too surprising. Kirk after all was the RINO, at least according to my right-wing Tea Party friends.

    Comment by Deep South Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 10:38 am

  9. ===SLC is the least of IL dems problems===

    SLC is a deal-breaker. Period. Get a clue.

    Comment by Rich Miller Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 10:43 am

  10. Excuse me?
    The Democrats run the same group of incumbants, but I’m supposed to get enthusiastic over it?

    The people who have been getting elected from the party that has complete control over every facet of Illinois state government, and has had complete control for years?

    The guys who have made this state a laughing stock, an economic basket case, and the corruption capital of the United State?

    I’m suppose to be enthused somehow?

    The reason these lame schmoes have been getting elected is because the GOP have given us even lamer schmoes.

    It is completely natural too. You don’t always cheer when the toilet flushes by the time you are four years old. Your professors doesn’t paint a smiley face on your Master’s Thesis. After a decade of marriage, your spouse isn’t going to fall all over you when you return home from work.

    So the Democrats will not be enthused. Illinoisans have no reason to be enthused by the Democrats. Voters have nor reason to be enthused about the fact that another day passes when a Democratic candidate of leader isn’t exposed as a fraud or a crook.

    Right now, we’re all laughing at our state leader’s incompetence because we simply cannot believe how incompetent they are. We are laughing at ourselves today for voting in these boobs.

    On Election Day, we will no longer be laughing at the Democrats. The GOP better hope there is a modicum of enthusiasm for their candidates.

    Comment by VanillaMan Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 10:56 am

  11. Andrzejewski spent enough time down here in the Metro-East to set up a future run for the 12th or 19th Congressional district…or at the very least, a state senate run. If he’d spent as much time in the collar counties as he did down here, he may have pulled a huge upset. Probably could’ve used better handlers.

    Comment by Steve-O Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 10:57 am

  12. Every friend I talked to said they didn’t vote in democratic primary because they were so disgusted by the caliber of the candidates. I found myself voting mainly to vote for the lesser of two evils. There were a few races that I left blank because I couldn’t stomach voting for the person.

    To make matters worse, I hear people who consider themselves democrats (not “Reagan Democrats” but true blue dems) saying that they hope some of the dems lose in November because they don’t like or trust them and would like to see their career go down in flames. I’m not far behind, but don’t like the repubs any better and think control of US Senate and Gov are too important to let personal dislikes influence me.

    I also think Quinn should be praying for Brady to win because I think my friends would vote for Dillard but not Brady.

    Comment by Objective Dem Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 11:03 am

  13. I should add that the enthusiasm gap isn’t due to not liking Obama or his policies. The only related issue is a sense that all the dems are wusses who let the repubs beat them up and don’t fight back.

    Comment by Objective Dem Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 11:05 am

  14. I walked five precincts for Andrzejewski. On Wed., I emailed him and asked him to run for city council or school board, in 2011. He can probably be elected to the state legislature or county board, in 2012 or ‘14, if he has an elected office.

    Comment by Conservative Veteran Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 11:06 am

  15. It’s interesting to note that the 2004 numbers were not that much higher than either 2006 and 2010 - and 2004 was a presidential year with an interesting (at least for a while) Senate race.

    I really wish our statewide races were held the same year as the presidential race.

    Comment by Team Sleep Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 11:16 am

  16. I agree with you on the Presidential vs. the Gubenatorial election comparison. I don’t think you can do a constructive assessment of enthusiasm based solely on raw vote totals by party for one particular office however without running the risk of arriving at a potentially flawed conclusion.

    In addiition to the Presidential vs. Gubenatorial comparison, their analysis is also developed around measuring enthusiasm using party preference based on national policy issues; as they apply to the U.S. Senate.

    Your analysis is developed around measuring enthusiasm using party preference based on state policy and operational issues; as they apply to the Governor’s office; a chief executive functionary.

    The Govenor’s office has far more direct impact on voters because they feel the direct impact of policy execution; as directed by a single individual

    Both sets of analysis use total raw votes for each political party as a barometer of enthusiasm; while neither analysis provides any correlation between the number of total registered voters, and those that actually turned out to vote; an important element in gauging overall enthusiasm, as well as enthusiasm by party.

    Since they are using a federal policy office position, and you are using a state executive administrative function position as the measuring stick, there is also an apple and orange conflict in what you have outlined.

    I think that a data reference point to the historical drop-off; under-vote, between the U.S. Senate, and the Governor’s office is worth noting. I also think that an indicator of incumbency vs. challenger party identification is really needed to gain a better understanding of the “enthusiasm”.

    Also, when comparing the 2006 and 2010 primary elections using one office as the barometer you have to account for voting options. In the 2006 race for Governor, the Republicans had 5 candidates representing a wide range of ideological and geographical base of support, while the Democrats had an incumbent, and in effect 2 choices, both from Chicago. Blago received 70% of the vote.

    With no statewide federal office up for election, there was limited incentive for Democrats to come out and vote on national policy issues, other than in isolated areas where there was a competitive congressional race elsewhere on the ballot to consider.

    Republicans were incentivized by ideologial alternatives between Topinka and others, and geographic alternatives between “Chicago” and “downstate”.

    Comment by Quinn T. Sential Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 11:21 am

  17. For years reporters have cited the number of Dems and Repubs who vote in the primary as a harbinger of things to come in the Fall. These numbers have no effect, or predictive power at all. Since there are so many independents, different issues in each parties primaries and 9 months of issues to arise, it is a waste of time to follow these primary votes.

    Comment by Tom Joad Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 11:21 am

  18. The GOP had at least three candidates from rich families (usually it’s one or two at the most) throwing big gobs of money in and that certainly helps generate energy, i.e. Plummer, McKenna, and Adam A.

    Someday it might be interesting to see how the dollars per vote changed.

    Comment by just sayin' Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 11:45 am

  19. Other than voting against Todder, there was nothing to get excited about on Tuesday, and the anti-Todder vote was a Cook County only. The fact was that there really weren’t any interesting Dem races, Hynes v. Quinn turned into some sort of Lost/Back to the Future primary where each guy was running on what happened when the Bears won the Super Bowl. So yeah, Dem turnout was down, but let’s also point out that GOP turnout was aiight, pretty much flat. So I think we might be reading a tad too much into this.

    Comment by The 'Dale to HPark Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 12:00 pm

  20. I agree with Adlai Stevenson who was on Chicago Tonight last evening: people are so disgusted in IL they’re not voting anymore…hea said it aint good and I agree…I voted on Tuesday, but my enthusiasm for the “game” is going down precipitously…

    Comment by Loop Lady Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 12:19 pm

  21. I’m shocked that Ms. Enemam does not appear to have had a license to be a “massage therapist” license according to the Div. of Professional Regulation website.

    SLC should hire a publicist and write a book. That would be one way to get his $$$ back.

    Comment by Marcus Agrippa Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 12:37 pm

  22. Whoops - wrong thread.

    Comment by Marcus Agrippa Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 12:38 pm

  23. I think Lech Walesa’s endorsement of Adam Andrzejewski caused many Polish voters to take Republican ballots instead of their usual Democratic primary ballots.

    These are usually conservative dems that would have been more inclined to vote for Hynes due to the early release stuff. I’m not sure if it would add up to 8000 votes but it would have made it closer.

    Just a theory.

    Comment by Phineas J. Whoopee Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 12:52 pm

  24. ===caused many Polish voters to take Republican ballots===

    I dunno. I’d like to see some proof. He came in fourth in Niles Township, for instance.

    Comment by Rich Miller Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 12:55 pm

  25. Here are some totals from Chicago

    38th ward
    1388 repub cast
    453 for AA

    45th Ward
    1846 rep votes cast
    502 for AA

    36th Ward
    1474 Repubs
    456 for AA

    I believe he came in first in these wards. Of course, if my theory is correct there would have to be a big increase in Repubs ballots in these wards as well which I’m not sure how to find.

    Comment by Phineas J. Whoopee Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 1:11 pm

  26. More stats,

    AA recieved

    38.5% in the 11th
    31% in the 13th
    33% in the 14th
    36% in the 23rd

    I think the majority of those are dem crossover votes.

    Comment by Phineas J. Whoopee Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 1:32 pm

  27. I don’t remember where i read it (it may have been on here now that i think about it), but someone wrote an opinion piece a few weeks ago saying the tea party movement in IL made a calculated mistake by trying to draw support to Pat Hughes, who never broke beyond 10% in the polls against Mark Kirk, instead of Adam Andrzejewski who given the circumstances, was never completely out of the race. The election proved that theory correct. Adam A. finished just 6% behind the leader. Now imagine what a swell of national media attention and, more importantly, money could have done in a race where there was never a clear front-runner? The tea-partiers could have established themselves as a politically relevent force in Illinois, but they let their drive for ideological purity get the best of them. As a democrat, i don’t see that as a necessarily bad thing, especially if Dillard ends up ahead. Dillard is at least a level-headed Republican who’d be willing to do what’s necessary to get the state out of this mess, and I don’t believe Adam A. (or anyone else in that primary for that matter) would have.

    Comment by SweetLou Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 1:52 pm

  28. Quinn-Cohen “Imperfect Implosion”

    Comment by Phineas J. Whoopee Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 2:07 pm

  29. Dale to HP, how about the worse budget deficit in a generation - or maybe ever? That should have been enough of a reason for people to vote. And the GOP and Democrat parties could not have a bigger chasm in they would handle the deficit should their candidate win in November. With the low turnout, it’s almost as though people have no idea how bad of a budget problem we have.

    Comment by Team Sleep Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 2:12 pm

  30. Objective Dem,

    You are so right. I voted for Hynes but I was not excited about the vote. If it was going to be a Quinn vs. Dillard general election choice, I was thinking about looking at Dillard very closely. Brady will never get my vote.

    Comment by So Blue Democrat Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 2:19 pm

  31. Can’t help but notice all the Dillard fans have “Dem” in their names.

    Comment by T.J. Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 2:42 pm

  32. TJ, you are on target with Dillard getting support from Dems. My impression, right or wrong, is that he fits the mold of moderate republicans like Thompson and Edgar. While that may not fire up the Repub base, it does get a lot of cross over votes and win elections.

    Comment by Objective Dem Friday, Feb 5, 10 @ 5:41 pm

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