Harry Enten “Why Trump’s enthusiasm edge over Biden could matter”

Analysis by Harry Enten, CNN

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump in pretty much every single national poll. Yet the same polls find that Trump’s supporters are much more enthusiastic about voting for their candidate than Biden’s supporters are voting for theirs.

This split is potentially a good sign for Trump because the candidate who has led on enthusiasm (or a closely related question) has won every presidential election since 1988, though there are reasons to think Biden could break this streak.

Importantly for Trump, the leader on enthusiasm has gone on to win in close elections as well as ones with wider margins.

One of those close elections was four years ago. Trump had a consistent edge over Hillary Clinton in enthusiasm. His voters were 4 points more likely to say they were very enthusiastic in voting for him than Clinton’s were for her in the final ABC News/Washington Post poll, even as Clinton led overall. That enthusiasm advantage should have been one of the warning signals to the Clinton campaign.

Trump’s current edge in enthusiasm over Biden is even larger. In a late March ABC News/Washington Post poll, 53% of Trump backers said they were very enthusiastic about voting for him. Just 24% of Biden backers said the same about their guy.

This 29-point difference would be the largest on record, if it held through the election.
The largest prior gap at the end of the election that I could find was in 2008. Back then, 67% of Barack Obama voters said they were very enthusiastic about voting for him. A mere 41% of John McCain said they were very enthusiastic about voting for their candidate. McCain, like Biden, was someone who had run for president previously and was seen as closer to the center than most of his primary rivals.

Before Biden, the most recent candidate who had run for president twice before winning his party’s nomination was Bob Dole. Dole lost. A minority (40%) of Dole voters said they strongly favored him in an October 1996 CBS News/New York Times survey. The majority said they did so with reservations or because they didn’t like his rivals. Bill Clinton’s voters were 10 points more likely than Dole’s to say they strongly supported him.

If nothing else, enthusiasm can manifest itself through the difference between registered and likely voters. If one side is more enthusiastic about their candidate, you could see them benefit by doing better among those who actually cast a ballot as compared to all voters.

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