Newt Gingrich said a mouthful in December when he described this year's presidential contest as "the most important election since 1860." As it turns out, a significant majority of Americans agree with him.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of those surveyed in this month's IBD/TIPP Poll believe the vote in November is indeed the "most important presidential election ever," while 35% do not. "Importance" is a proxy for "intensity," which in turn influences voter turnout.
Those who consider this to be the most important election ever can be seen as having "high intensity" and the others to have "low intensity." Eighty-two percent of Republicans, 56% of Democrats and 54% of independents belong to the high-intensity segment.
What are the differences between the two segments of the electorate?
First, 68% of high-intensity people are generally dissatisfied with the country's direction compared with 51% of low-intensity people.
Second, government's employment statistics fail to fully communicate the pain that is likely to reverberate in the November outcome. We estimate that more than 30 million Americans are seeking full-time work.
Twenty-nine percent of high-intensity households have at least one person looking for full-time work vs. 23% of low-intensity households.
Third, the high-intensity segment lacks confidence in President Obama. Only 36% of them approve of the job he's doing compared with 60% of low-intensity people.
Fourth, high-intensity Americans blame Obama for what they see as a lack of sufficient improvement in the economy and yearn for a new president who might produce better results. By 61% to 35%, they believe someone new deserves a chance. Low-intensity people, on the other hand, think Obama deserves re-election by a 62% to 28% margin.
Fifth, the two groups also differ on the importance of candidates' positions on the issues:
• Improving the economy is very important to 76% of high-intensity respondents compared with 57% of low-intensity people.
• Health care change is very important to 64% of the high-intensity group vs. 41% of low-intensity group.
• Illegal immigration is very important to 45% of high-intensity people vs. 27% of low- intensity people.
• Iran's nuclear threat is very important to 45% of high-intensity Americans but to only 23% of their low-intensity cohorts.
• The type of Supreme Court appointments the candidates may make is very important to 44% of high-intensity people compared with only 24% of low-intensity people.
Sixth, the high-intensity segment is worried the country is evolving into a socialist state. Forty-five percent believe the country is headed in the socialist direction, while only 24% of low-intensity people think so.
In sum, the voter turnout on which so much is riding in November will be a function of intensity, and the candidate who evokes high intensity might win.
• Mayur is president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which directs the IBD/TIPP Poll that was the most accurate in the last two presidential elections.