So what should we make of the recent Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll, showing that Democratic voters are much less motivated than Republicans are to vote in 2010? Prof. Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia gave us some perspective — and said that even if the Democrats pass major programs like health care, it won’t necessarily be enough to turn things back around.
“Well, look first let’s stress it’s a year ahead of the election, so a lot can change,” Sabato cautioned. “The second point I’d make is, this is not terribly unusual. This is the norm for off year elections.”
“Now why does this happen?” Sabato also explained “The opposition has a great advantage in off-year elections. Their numbers tend to be frustrated and angry about A-B-C, D-E-F. There are a lot of reasonsÂ why they’re angry. The supporters of a president inevitably become somewhat disillusioned by the process of governing.”As for a president’s supporters, Sabato said how they normally find themselves pleased with items A, B and C — but let down by D, E and F. “Well, how does the human mind work? It’s focused on D-E-F. That tends to lower the president’s partisans’ intentions to vote.”
So what can Republicans do to sustain this trend, and what can Democrats do to turn it around? “Well politically obviously they [Republicans] have to continue to stir their base in opposition to President Obama and Congressional Democrats, which isn’t hard,” said Sabato. “That’s a pretty easy task. Being in opposition is just easier than governing, and that’s the fact of the matter for either side.”
“The Democrats — we’ve talked a million times about passing health care reform to give the base something to be happy about.” However, Sabatao explained why even this won’t be enough: “They’re not going to be wildly enthusiastic about it, because it will be a product of compromise. So I don’t know if the simple passage of health care reform will be enough to do it.”
The economy will also be an important factor. Sabato added that while unemployment is not likely to turn around in time for 2010, other economic indicators, such as per-capita and per-family income, could go up. However, the Democrats will still have to deal with unemployed supporters who might not go for the Republicans — but won’t show up for the Dems, either.
“When you’re turned off to the system, you don’t necessarily vote for the opponent,” he said. “You don’t abandon your party ID. You might not just show up to vote. It’s easier to move a half step than a whole step.”