Enthusiasm gap? New voter numbers down from ’06, ’08

Looking for hard evidence of the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans? Or this election and 2008? Try the latest voter registration numbers.

Only 34 percent of new voters in Connecticut registered as Democrats this year, compared to 39 percent in 2006 and 43 percent in 2008.

Republicans, relatively speaking, are having a strong year, with 20 percent of new voter registrations, compared to 16 percent in 2006 and 13 percent in 2008.

Among new voters, the percentage of unaffiliated has remained nearly constant: 44 percent in 2006, 43 percent in 2008 and 44 percent in 2010.

Through the middle of the month, the state recorded 67,232 new voter registrations, compared to 90,000 in 2006 and 300,000 who registered to vote for president in 2008.

Voters can continue to register until 8 p.m. on Oct. 26.

“In 2008, we had an unprecedented number of new voters,” said Susan Bysiewicz, the secretary of the state. “I think we had more than 20,000 who registered at the deadline. That was incredible.”

With Barack Obama on the ballot in 2008, the young registered in droves: About half of all new voters were under 30.

This year, the downturn in voter registrations are consistent with polling that shows a dispirited, even angry electorate, despite open seats for U.S. Senate and governor.

The uptick in Democratic registrations in 2006 and 2008 preceded what turned out to be Democratic wave elections in congressional races.

In 2006, Democrats Joe Courtney and Chris Murphy unseated Republicans Rob Simmons and Nancy Johnson, giving Democrats four of the state’s five U.S. House seats.

Two years ago, helped by Obama’s coattails, Democrat Jim Himes unseated the only remaining Republican member of the U.S. House in Connecticut and New England, Chris Shays.

Obama is coming to Bridgeport on Oct. 30, the Saturday before the election, to try to help Himes recapture some of that enthusiasm.

Republican State Chairman Chris Healy is upbeat about the GOP’s chances this year, but he declined to put too much emphasis on the voter registrations.

“Ultimately, I think you can get yourself to the point of delirium trying to figure out what these new numbers mean,” Healy said. “Voters who come in off-year elections are more motivated, almost like primary voters.”

Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said the drop off from 2008 just reflects the extraordinary interest that Obama and Hillary Clinton generated all year among Democrats.

As of Oct. 18, the state had 2,009,938 voters: 746,080 Democrats (37 percent), 415,663 Republicans (21 percent) and 835,887 unaffiliated(42 percent).