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Horowitz: Stepped up Protests and Higher Youth Turnout Fuels Democratic Optimism

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


Rob Horowitz

The evidence continues to mount that the intense negative reactions to President Trump by a majority of the electorate may have disastrous consequences for the Republicans in the mid-term elections. An unprecedented 1 in 5 Americans--the overwhelming majority of whom have negative perceptions of President Trump--have participated in either a political rally or political protest over the past 2 years or so, according to a recently released Washington Post/Kaiser Foundation Poll.  Nearly 20% of these protesters and rally attendees were participating for the first time.  And this poll was taken before the large scale nationwide protests that have taken place in the wake of the Parkland school shooting, which would surely have upped the total percentage as well as the percentage of first time participants.

Unlike protests in the 60’s--many of which were framed by the organizers as direct action alternatives to traditional political activities--—nearly all the recent protest activity has emphasized the importance of voting.  This makes these recent protests potentially more politically consequential. This is reflected in the fact that more than 8-in-10 rally and protest participants say they are definitely going to vote this November.   Further, a disproportionate share of the protesters and rally participants live in the suburbs—a key battleground in the mid-terms.  Nearly half earn more than $100,000 a year and are 50 years or older.

Coupled with this stepped up political activity for all age groups are signs that millennial turn-out, which so far has been anemic in mid-term elections, is likely to be significantly higher this Fall.  Young voters usually give Democratic candidates 60% or so of the vote.  Given Trump’s especially low marks with this sub-set of the electorate, even higher percentages are possible.

In the 2014 mid-term election, only 13% of voters were between 18 and 29, while 21% of voters were 65 an over.  In contrast, in the 2016 presidential election, 19% of voters were between 18 and 29, as opposed to 16% that were 65 and over.  According to Darrell M. West, Vice-President of Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution, signs from recent special elections and the 2017 Governor’s race in Virginia, point towards an electorate that will at least in terms of age look a bit more like a presidential one than a typical mid-term one. West, a former Brown University Professor, cites the 2017 Virginia election as an example:, “the 2017 Virginia state elections generated a youth turnout of 34 percent, twice the state’s 2009 level. That was a boon to gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam as he captured 69 percent of the youth vote, compared to 30 percent for Republican Ed Gillespie.”

The stepped up protesting and recent higher youth voter turnout provide back-up for the belief based on polling that there will be a so-called intensity gap this fall that favors the Democrats. So far, Democratic voters appear more motivated to vote than Republican voters.   

While this is all promising for the Democrats, Republicans still have significant structural advantages in the mid-terms, including the fact that Democratic voters tend to be more concentrated in urban areas, while Republicans are better proportioned throughout more Congressional districts. Additionally, as I have noted, a mid-term electorate traditionally is comprised of an outsized share of older voters who tend to be more Republican. Since these are regular voters--60% to 70% of whom turn out for these elections on average--even if they are a little less excited than usual, it doesn’t mean that they won’t vote in close to their usual numbers.  Finally, it is still early and there is sufficient time for voter perceptions of President Trump to shift.   This will require, however, a major change in his behavior. That is what drives his high negatives much more than his policies.

With these caveats fully acknowledged,  Democratic optimism for the Fall is becoming increasingly well-founded.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


Related Slideshow: GoLocal: Benchmark Poll, October 2017

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Sponsor: GoLocalProv

Sample: N=403

Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

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Are you registered to vote at this address?

Yes: 100%

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When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

Unaffiliated: 49%

Democrat: 32%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: .4%

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Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?

Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...

Definitely be voting: 78%

Probably be voting: 13%

50-50: 9%

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In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

Right track: 39%

Wrong track: 45%

Mixed: 10%

Don't know/Refused: .6%

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

Jobs and economy:  21%

Education: 12%

Taxes: 12%

Roads: 12%

State budget: 9%

Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

Healthcare: 3%

Governor: 3%

Homelessness: 2%

Immigration: 2%

Other: 7%

Don’t know: .9%

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Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 35%

Changed for the worse: 16%

Not changed at all: 43%

Don't know/Refused: 5%

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Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 26%

Changed for the worse: 19%

Not changed at all: 54%

Don't know/Refused: 1%

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Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

Net: Approve: 28%

Definitely approve: 15%

Probably approve: 14%

Net: Reject: 67%

Probably reject: 19%

Definitely reject: 48%

Don't know: 4%

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Could you please tell me your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 15%

35-44: 15%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 2%

High school grad: 16%

Technical/Vocational school: 1%

Some college: 23%

College grad: 34%

Graduate degree: 24%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

$50,000 or less: 27%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

$150,000 or more: 13%

Don't know/refused: 17%

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What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

American/None: 21%

English: 13%

Italian: 13%

Irish: 12%

Black or African American: 6%

Latino/Hispanic: 6%

French: 6%

Portuguese: 3%

Jewish: 3%

German: 1%

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Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?

Excellent: 13%
Good: 12%
Fair: 14%
Poor: 57%
Never heard of:  0%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 22%
Good: 29%
Fair: 23%
Poor: 15%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%

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Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 17%
Good: 22%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 28%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%

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Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 9%
Good: 29%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 27%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate:  8%

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Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 7%
Good: 30%
Fair: 20%
Poor: 18%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%

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Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

Excellent: 6%
Good: 28%
Fair: 30%
Poor: 31%
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 16%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 8%
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%

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Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 20%
Fair: 28%
Poor: 17%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%

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Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 18%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 13%
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%

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Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

Excellent: 5%
Good: 21%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 10%
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%

Prev Next

Would you say that Jorge Elorza has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Mayor of Providence?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 24%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 22%
Never heard of: 9%
Cannot rate: 15%


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