AP-NORC poll: GOP more fired up for 2020, Democrats anxious

When it comes to the 2020 presidential election, Democrats are nervous wrecks and Republican excitement has grown.

That's according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research as Americans look ahead to a high-stakes election that is 10 months away but still very much top of mind. While emotions could change in the coming months, the findings give Democrats one more worry to add to the list: Will anxiety or enthusiasm be a bigger motivator come November?

On the verge of the first votes being cast in a primary contest with no clear leader , 66% of Democrats report anxiety about the election, compared with 46% of Republicans. Democrats are also more likely to feel frustration. Republicans, meanwhile, are more likely than Democrats to declare excitement about the race, and the share of enthusiastic Republicans appears to be rising.

The findings aren't surprising to anyone who's talked to an undecided Democrat about the crowded primary field. Behind an intense desire to oust President Donald Trump, Democrats often describe deep uncertainty about what sort of candidate has the best chance and whether the party will be able to win the votes. There's also hard division over policy and whispers about a contested convention. It can all feel a bit too much for some.

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(L-R) Democratic presidential hopefuls billionaire-philanthropist Tom Steyer, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar participate in the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopefuls Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (L) and former Vice President Joe Biden participate of the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopefuls former Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders participate of the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren participates of the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopefuls Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (L), former Vice President Joe Biden (C) and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders participate of the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (L) chats with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (L) alongside billionaire-philanthropist Tom Steyer (C) during a break of the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopefuls Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (L), former Vice President Joe Biden (C) and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders participate of the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar speaks during the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful billionaire-philanthropist Tom Steyer speaks during the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren participates of the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Former Vice President Joe Biden interact after the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speak as Tom Steyer looks on after the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful former Vice President Joe Biden participates of the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Staff members await the candidates in the spin room at the end of the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg prepares for television interview in the spin room after the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) delivers his closing statement during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren participates of the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (R) listen during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
(L-R) Democratic presidential hopefuls billionaire-philanthropist Tom Steyer, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar speak during the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
(L-R) Democratic presidential hopefuls Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar participate in the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar speaks with a journalist in the spin room after the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by kerem yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (R) listens as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) makes a point during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Actress Mandy Moore attends the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopefuls former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders particiapate of the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Professor Cornel West listens to the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) prepares for television interview in spin room after the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Members of the media work in the spin room during the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by kerem yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)
Members of the media work in the spin room during the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by kerem yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tom Steyer speak during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
(L-R) Democratic presidential hopefuls billionaire-philanthropist Tom Steyer, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar speak during the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful billionaire and philanthropist Tom Steyer speaks with the media at the spin room following the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Tom Steyer (L), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (R) listen as former Vice President Joe Biden (C) speaks during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (R) and former Vice President Joe Biden (L) listen as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) makes a point during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar speaks during the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopefuls billionaire-philanthropist Tom Steyer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren speak during a break in the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful billionaire and philanthropist Tom Steyer speaks with the media at the spin room following the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. (Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) makes a point as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg reacts during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Members of the media watch the CNN Democratic Presidential Debate on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Members of the media watch the CNN Democratic Presidential Debate on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Candidates will have their chance to make an impression on Iowa voters before the caucus on February 3rd. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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“I'm anxious and not really in a good way,” said James Horinek, 32, a Democrat in Lawton, Oklahoma, who works in marketing. “There's division across the board — there's too much on the Democratic side and too little on the Republican one.”

Republicans, meanwhile, appear to share less of that angst, while their party hangs together on impeachment, the economy and other major issues on Trump's agenda.

“I am not nervous at all. I think Donald Trump will win it in a landslide,” said Clinton Adams, a 39-year-old custodian in the Florida Panhandle.

The poll found that 43% of Republicans say they're excited about the election, up 10 percentage points from October. Meanwhile, 33% of Democrats reported excitement.

About three-quarters of both Democrats and Republicans say they are highly motivated to cast ballots this year. But that only raises the question of which emotion will be stronger in turning out the vote around the margins.

A party usually wants its voters excited rather than anxious, said George Marcus, a political scientist at Williams College who has studied the role of emotion in politics and polling. Marcus found that voters who report fear and anxiety are more likely to be confused and split their vote.

“It creates the possibility for persuasion,” Marcus said of voter worry. “If I'm an anxious Democrat, I may stay home, I may vote Republican. ... You want your base to be either really angry at the other side or really enthusiastic.”

Still, Marcus noted Democrats have a long way to go before Election Day. The selection of a nominee could calm jitters and stir up excitement for a candidate. Events could also shift GOP voters' confidence.

Anna Greenburg, a Democratic pollster, said the contrast between GOP excitement and Democratic anxiety and frustration is not a surprise.

“In general, supporters of the party in power are going to be more optimistic and hopeful, while supporters of the party out of power are going to be frustrated and angry,” Greenburg said.

She also noted that Democrats have been stressed since Trump won the White House.

“Since Trump was elected, Democrats have been particularly anxious about both the idea of disinformation and election interference in 2020 and what could happen in a second Trump term,” Greenburg said. However, she added, “ there is no evidence that Democrats are any less enthusiastic about voting in 2020, and the results of the 2018 election would suggest that they are highly motivated to vote.”

Indeed, the poll suggests that the feeling among Democrats might be a driver: About 9 in 10 anxious Democrats say they feel very motivated to vote this November, compared with about half of those who are not anxious.

Tim Farrell is one of those stressed-out Democrats who have been worried since Trump won in 2016. The 58-year-old social worker in Watertown, New York, says he's been “ill for the last three years.”

He has little faith that voters will turn on Trump, but it's the ongoing impeachment trial in the Republican-controlled Senate that's raised his anxiety about November. “I'm dreading the expected outcome. He won't be convicted. He'll feel he's invulnerable, and he's an idiot with his finger on the button,” Farrell said of the president.

Farrell expects to donate to whomever the party nominates, and indeed, that's one way Democratic anxiety may help their party. Eighteen percent of anxious Democrats say they’ve donated, compared with 5% of those who are not anxious.

Still, the stress doesn't feel good to Kathy Tuggle, a retired administrative assistant in Richmond, Indiana. She also dreads the implications of a Trump acquittal — that the president can recruit other countries to help his reelection — and worries about relaxed standards for truth in political ads on Facebook.

“I'm just not sure we can have a fair election right now,” the 65-year-old Democrat said. “That's probably my biggest anxiety right now.”

Domingo Rodriguez thinks these worries are ridiculous. The 75-year-old retired translator lives in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, and, though he's not affiliated with either party, supports Trump. “I think Trump will win again. I'm not nervous,” Rodriguez said, chuckling as he thought about Democrats' view of the election.

“They're absolutely anxious. For them it's a matter of life and death,” said Rodriguez, who emigrated from Uruguay decades ago. Not for him, though. “I know I'm going to be living and existing and being in the great United States even if the Democrats win.”

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The AP-NORC poll of 1,353 adults was conducted Jan. 16-21 using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and later were interviewed online or by phone.

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AP-NORC Center: http://www.apnorc.org/

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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

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