GOP Turnout is Embarrassingly Low This Year

GOP turnout this election year is embarrassingly low compared to last year. On Tuesday, Minnesota had just more than 47,000 people come out for its caucuses compared to nearly 63,000 last election year. In Colorado, caucus attendance was down over 5,000 people. Missouri had about 232,000 people turn out, less than half as many as 4 years ago. So why such a low turnout? One possibility is negative campaign ads. In Florida, 93% of the ads that aired in the last week alone were negative, and caucus attendance was down 400,000 people. Overall, negative ads depress turnout.

All of this should be a wake-up call for the GOP. Despite tons of national media attention devoted to the campaign the response has been a yawn among Republican voters. When you compare the numbers of registered Republicans in each state that has voted so far to the numbers that turned out to the caucuses, the turnout appears even lower. The low turnout does not bode well for the candidates. Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney has struggled to climb above 35% in national polls meaning that Republicans still support someone else in a weak position. His vote margins are even lower than those four years before when he lost the nomination to McCain. If McCain couldn’t pull it off 4 years ago, how can anyone expect Romney to do it now?

Another big part of the low turnout is related to the problem of polarization. The Republican Party is more ideologically polarized than it has been for several years. The GOP field is much more purely right-wing than it was last election cycle, so less Republicans are interested in the candidates that don’t match their own ideals. People are simply dissatisfied with the candidates. Republicans seem to be united against Obama, but they don’t appear to be inspired by the Republican candidates.

At the end of it all, voter turnout matters. The enthusiasm gap surrounding the conservative base and a lack of candidates that appeal to independents and swing voters should heavily trouble the Republican Party. The fact is voters just aren’t turning out to vote for this year’s conservative candidates.

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