There are many challenges involved in determining who is most likely to vote in a given election. Online conversations or real-world actions can give a false sense of engagement. Polls can miss less regularly engaged voters; polling questions can exaggerate or underestimate the extent of enthusiasm at the polls. Past participation patterns have mixed in recent years, with surges in 2018 and 2020 that may or may not be repeated this year.
On Tuesday, I watched the growing rumors that American women in particular will flood the polls following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Protect access to abortion after the dismantling of Roe vs. Wade quickly became a rallying cry aimed at November — but polls don’t indicate Democrats have seen a big surge in support from female voters.
In fact, data provided to The Washington Post by polling firm YouGov indicates that the group reporting the most enthusiasm for voting is the opposite of what many expect: Republican men. And that enthusiasm grew.
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I’ll start by going back to my starting point: asking people how more or less enthusiastic they are about voting this year compared to years past is difficult. Saying you want to vote when someone calls you is different from taking the initiative to vote. Moreover, as the YouGov data itself shows, these numbers change over time. Groups that are more enthusiastic now may be less enthusiastic on Election Day, and vice versa.
With that caveat in place, consider what the data shows. YouGov polls weekly, so I’ve included a three-week rolling average from the end of April – shortly before a draft of the Dobbs decision was published by Politico – until the last poll at the end of August. The top row shows the percentage of women in each partisan group who say they are more enthusiastic about voting. The bottom row is made up of men.
Note first that independents express less enthusiasm than supporters, which is normal.
Now look at the pattern in the wake of Dobbs. Democratic women reported more enthusiasm after the decision was released in late June, continuing an upward trend. But Democrat Men expressed much greater enthusiasm – which was fairly short-lived.
Republican women, meanwhile, didn’t change their enthusiasm much after Dobbs. But more than half of Republican men now say they are more excited than in other years to vote in November. They are the only group above this mark. Their reported enthusiasm also tends to increase.
The patterns are clearer if we look at groups of four weeks of declared enthusiasm. Considering the four previous polls Dobbs, the four immediately after and the four most recent, you see that the enthusiasm is pretty flat among independents and Republican women. For Republican men, their already high level of enthusiasm has increased. For Democratic men and women, enthusiasm grew a little afterDobbs then decreased.
The most accurate way to express what these results show is this: Democrats saw an increase in reported enthusiasm after Dobbsbut Republicans overall remain more enthusiastic.
Does this mean that Democratic women will not defy expectations in November? No. Does that mean Republicans will outperform the expected turnout? No. But that means that — at least in this YouGov poll — the idea that Democratic women in particular are newly and exceptionally energized doesn’t get much support.