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Looking at Campaign 2008 through Rose-colored Glasses

- January 18, 2008

My, my, aren’t we — the American electorate — in a cheery mood?

According to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll conducted January 10-13:

* 60% of adults nationwide describe themselves as “more enthusiastic about voting than usual,” verus 29% who are “less enthusiastic.” That figure tends to fluctuate — just three months ago it was 65%-23%, so perhaps we’re already getting tired of all the campaigning, with a very long way to go. Still, compared to answers to the same question in January of 2000 (43% “more enthusiastic,” 38% less so) and 2004 (55% versus 34%), we’re just bubbling over with enthusiasm as of now.

* Unsurprisingly, given the current outlook, Democrats and Democratic leaners are positively giddy: 74% are “more enthusiastic” than usual (way up from the counterpart figures for 2000 — 39% — and 2004 — 59%. Republicans, by contrast, are if anything a bit more blase than ever — 49% “more enthusiastic” now, compared to 51% in 2000 and 53% in 2004.

* We’re also close to a record high in the public’s sense that “it make[s] a real difference to you who is elected president” (87% now, but only 54% back in January 2000).

* Similarly, 84% answer “yes” when asked whether there’s “any candidate running this year that you think would make a good president.” Back in January of 1992, just 40% thought so.

* And despite all the grumbling over the years about the issuelessness of presidential campaigns, most people (72%) actually think “the presidential candidates [are] talking about issues you really care about” (January 2000 counterpart: 54%).

I’m not exactly sure of what to make of this — whether it’s just a blip, why — if it’s true — it’s happening, and what difference it might make as the elections draw near. Any ideas?

(For a fuller presentation of the survey results, click here.)

[Hat tip to the Washington Post‘s “Behind the Numbers” blog.]