Less than two months before Election Day, voter engagement remains relatively high. Interest is lower than in 2008, but on par with 2004 and 1992 – all elections with high turnout levels. Voters are more engaged than they were in 1996 and 2000; when turnout in November was much lower.
Seven-in-ten voters have given a lot of thought to the election, down from 78% in 2008 but on par with the 71% in 2004 who had thought a lot about the campaign. Similarly, 44% are following election news very closely. That is lower than the 50% in 2008 but similar to 2004 (46%). Fully 84% of voters say they definitely plan to vote in the election, unchanged from 2008 and slightly lower than in 2004 (87%).
Republicans remain highly engaged in this election, but Democrats have closed the gap from earlier this year. Fully 72% of Republicans have given a lot of thought to the election, similar to the 71% of Democrats. In June, more Republican voters than Democrats had given a lot of thought to the election (73% vs. 66%).
Interest in campaign news has increased from earlier this summer; 44% now say they are following election news very closely, up from just 37% in June. And Democrats are now paying as close attention as Republicans; 46% are following campaign news very closely, up nine points since June. About half of Republicans (48%) are following election news very closely, little changed from three months ago (45%).
More voters also say it really matters who wins this presidential election – 76% say that when it comes to making progress on the important issues it really matters who wins, up from 63% in June. Fully 79% of Democrats now say this, up 14 points since June and on par with where they were in September 2008 (78%). A large majority of Republicans (82%) also say it really matters who wins. More Republicans say this now than did so in June (72%) and in 2008 (71%).
About as many Romney supporters (80%) as Obama supporters (78%) say it really matters who wins this fall’s election. In September 2008, Obama voters were more likely than McCain voters to say it really mattered who won (79% vs. 67%).
Long-Term Trends in Engagement
There is little gap between Republicans and Democrats in interest in the campaign and intention to vote. A similar proportion of Republican (88%) and Democratic voters (87%) say they definitely plan to vote in the election.
Similarly, Republicans and Democrats are about equally likely to say they have given a lot of thought to the election. In September 2008, 2004 and 1992, there were was little partisan difference in thought given to the election. However, in 1996 and 2000, Republican voters were giving more thought to the campaign.
As in most previous campaigns, there are no significant partisan differences in interest in campaign news. In the current survey, 48% of Republicans, 46% of Democrats and 37% of independents say they are following election news very closely.
Obama Favored to Win
Roughly half (53%) of voters think that Obama is most likely to win the election this fall, about double the number (24%) who think Romney has the advantage. Obama has had a wide lead over Romney on this measure all year. At this point in 2008, the race seemed far more competitive to voters, 39% said Obama was most likely to win and 39% said McCain. But Obama had gained significant ground by October, when 61% of voters said he was most likely to win.
A slim majority of Republicans (54%) say Romney is going to win while 22% think Obama is most likely to win and 24% are unsure. By comparison, 83% of Democratic voters say Obama is most likely to win. Independents see Obama as more likely to win by about two-to-one (45% vs. 23%).
Among Romney supporters, about half (53%) say he is most likely to win; by comparison, 82% of Obama supporters expect their candidate to win. Among swing voters, far more expect Obama than Romney to win (50% vs. 12%); 39% are unsure.