The FINANCIAL -- As the 2016 primaries continue, with neither party's nominee yet decided, Gallup finds sharp differences in the enthusiasm expressed by supporters of the various candidates. Among Republicans and Republican leaners, voters who support Donald Trump are the most enthusiastic by far, with a combined 65% describing themselves as extremely or very enthusiastic. This is nearly twice the level of fervor expressed by Republicans backing Gov. John Kasich (33%), and well eclipses the enthusiasm from those backing Sen. Ted Cruz (39%).
In both parties, people's enthusiasm for voting in the election could reflect a combination of factors -- including excitement about their preferred candidate's presence in the race as well as confidence that the candidate will succeed in winning either the nomination or the general election. The latter could be particularly relevant on the Democratic side, where Clinton is widely seen as the likely nominee and is poised to be the first female major-party nominee. That contrasts with the Republican nomination, which remains unclear given the real likelihood that no candidate will garner the necessary number of delegates to secure the nomination before the convention.
These findings are from Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted March 21-23 with 1,358 registered voters, including 635 Republicans and independents who lean Republican, and 610 Democrats and Democratic leaners. The poll coincided with the March 22 Democratic primaries that resulted in two wins for Sanders and one for Clinton, but preceded Saturday's voting in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state -- which Sanders swept.
Overall, 47% of registered voters nationwide say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting this year. That is down from 54% in January, but is slightly higher than the 42% level of enthusiasm recorded in March 2012.
Separately, Gallup asked voters how much thought they have given to the election -- an important past indicator of voter turnout. Here Gallup finds that the various candidates' supporters are paying fairly similar attention to the election. Three-quarters of Clinton and Sanders supporters say they have given quite a lot of or some thought to the election, along with 79% of Cruz supporters and slightly higher percentages of Trump (83%) and Kasich (85%) supporters.
Voter enthusiasm is not necessarily a good indicator of voter turnout, but it could play a role come convention time when the parties need to bring the losing candidates' supporters on board with the party's choice for nominee. Should these findings persist, the extraordinarily high enthusiasm seen among Trump's supporters could be an impediment to Republican Party unity if he is not chosen. On the Democratic side, enthusiasm for Sanders -- most evident in the overflow rallies he has enjoyed throughout the campaign -- could portend party dissension should Clinton become the nominee. However, contrary to what the optics of the campaign might project, it is Clinton's supporters right now who are more enthusiastic.