Thursday, October 12, 2006

Election Day Turnout

In recent years, the perception is that the GOP has been helped on election day by folks turning out to vote on important social questions, such as gay marriage and affirmative action. This year the GOP base is widely regarded as dispirited and less likely to come to the polls. Indeed, when pollsters produce samples that are heavily weighted toward Democrats, they sometimes explain that their measure of voter interest indicates that voters this year will be heavily Democratic.

Now this all might be true.

Yet in this discussion, I hear very little mention of ballot initiatives - and there are a ton this year. Are social conservatives not going to come out to vote on them? Or are they going to come out and vote Democratic? or leave the ballots for House and Senate blank? None of those seems very likely to me. Or is it something different - that these initiatives activate more liberal voters than in the past, so the GOP advantage is washed out?

Stu Rothenberg compiles a list of ballot initiatives here. The list includes polls for the initiatives where they are available.

It shows that for ballot initiatives on abortion, what might be called the 'GOP Position' leads in Oregon, while the 'Dem position' leads in South Dakota, and there's a virtual tie in California. On stem cells, Democrats lead in Missouri. On affirmative action, the GOP leads in Michigan. There are same-sex marriage initiatives in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. Polls show the 'GOP position' leading in Wisconsin and Tennessee, with what you might call a tie in Colorado. On drug legalization, the GOP leads in Nevada and Colorado.

There are a raft of other initiatives on a range of issues. There are several states with measures raising the minimum wage and education spending; these might benefit Democratic candidates.

But overall, I have to think that GOPers will be helped in states with favorable ballot measures and close races. I'm thinking about people like George Allen, Mike Bouchard, Bob Corker, JD Hayworth, and the GOP candidates in Colorado. Where those races (or others) are close, I would think that the GOP candidate is likely to receive a 'turnout boost' worth a few percentage points.

Can anyone provide more info on how pollsters are accounting for this?

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