GOP Primary Turnout Down From 2008 And 2000 As Polls Point To Growing Enthusiasm Gap

Romney addresses a crowd in Detroit last month

As ThinkProgress has previously noted, Republican voter turnout was down in the early GOP primaries, suggesting a lack of enthusiasm among Republicans for their presidential candidates, and for presumed nominee Mitt Romney in particular.

A new report out today from the Bipartisan Policy Center shows this trend continued in this week’s Super Tuesday votes, with turnout down from both 2008 and 2000(the previous year with a contested GOP primary):

Based on final and official results from the six states whose primaries preceded Super Tuesday and near final and unofficial results from the seven Super Tuesday primaries, 7,846,172 voted out of 68,125,000 eligible citizens or 11.5 percent. Turnout in 2008 was 13.2 percent of eligibles and it was 12.2 in 2000.

This table provides the complete date:

A new Rassmussen poll released this week “shows that a plurality of voters have less confidence in the Republican hopefuls today than they did a month ago,” the conservative blog Town Hall notes, suggesting the situation is not improving. An astonishing 43 percent of Republicans say they still want a new candidate to enter the race; just 36 percent are satisfied with the current field.

Meanwhile, as Gallup reported Tuesday, “Republicans are not highly satisfied with their field of candidates, and the intensity with which they view their candidates pales in comparison to the intensity Democrats have for their candidate.” Among Republican voters, Mitt Romney has a “positive intensity score” of +13 percent and Rick Santorum has a +15 percent, while Obama has a whopping +36 percent among Democratic voters. (The score measures the percentage who have a strongly favorable view of each candidate minus the percentage with a strongly unfavorable view.)

That greater-than-double ratio is even higher than the positive favorability rating in 2008 of the Democratic candidates compared to Republican candidates at around the same time in the process, according to a Pew poll from February of that year.

But 2012 was supposed to be a banner year for Republicans to rally against Obama. And liberals were supposed to be unenthusiastic, given the still ailing economy and unique liberal motivators in 2008 — a chance to elect the first black of female president and a hugely unpopular Republican in the White House — making the date all the more troubling for Republicans.

At least one group of voters is turning out for Romney: the wealthy. But that may not be enough, as the candidate’s fundraising is now suffering because of its over-reliance on wealthy donors and difficulty attracting small contributors.