Number of what on the rise?

Harris has been measuring the number of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents every year since 1969. I've been chewing over the latest annual polling of Party ID for a month, what's it mean?

In 1969, 32% called themselves Republican, 49% Democrat, 19% Independent, and 0% claimed other/not sure. That was the peak Democrat period. The peak Independent period was in 1979, when 31% claimed Independent, 41% Democrat, 22% Republican, and 6% claimed other/not sure. The peak Republican period was in 1990, when 33% claimed Republican, 38% claimed Democrat, 25% claimed Independent, and 4% claimed other/not sure.

The partisan difference of 1990 showed Democrats with a 5% lead, and in December, 13 years later, Democrats still have a 5% lead. However, all three have dropped. Those calling themselves Republican has dropped to 28%, Democrat to 33%, and Independent to 24%. The number of those claiming other/not sure has risen to 15% for 2003. In fact, this number is increasing significantly over the past decade:

Other/Not sure

2003: 15%
2002: 11%
2001: 11%
2000: 11%
1999: 9%
1998: 8%
1997: 8%
1996: 6%

And on it goes, to 0% in 1969. People claim that we are in a most polarized state of the union, but it's not that simple. Republican and Democrat support has dropped 4% and 16% respectively since 1969, now totaling an all-time low 61% of those claiming a partisan identification. In that same period, the number of those claiming themselves Independent has risen 5%, and the number of those claiming other/not sure has risen to 15%, for a total of 39% that are opting out of the polarization.

This is significant, especially in terms of thinking about 2004. Right now, those 39% have no alternative than to choose a side. However, I wouldn't be shocked to see an alternative candidate come in to fill the void. It's hard to imagine such a person, given the percieved polarization of the debate, but a significant number of people have already opted out, in fact, they have the plurality lead.

What it also might mean, and a number of writers have argued this from both sides, is that this plurality of those not siding with either the Republican or Democrat identification are in the process of re-alignment with either of the parties. Republicans would say the trigger is issue-oriented and Democrats would say it is demographic in nature. At least for now, they are probably both correct, which would mean the gap will get even wider before a partisan re-alignment occurs. There are also compelling arguments that the polarization is happening at a state level, that the blue states are becoming bluer, and the red redder. There's not a simple answer here, but it is compelling data.

Tags: Demographics (all tags)

Comments

8 Comments

link?
I'm looking through the Harris web site; I can't find the data.
by Matt Stoller 2004-04-02 07:18AM | 0 recs
More there, there.
I imagine you'll want to add a little background on this (the 5 Ws, could be a start); the more meat you give out, the more you get back in comments...
by JD 2004-04-02 10:50PM | 0 recs
scoop learning curve
Hey, I actually thought I had this in "editing" mode, didn't reealize it'd went public.  But let's run with it, basically, I was looking at the numbers, and trying to figure out what the increase in 'other' meant, which Harris polled.
by Jerome Armstrong 2004-04-03 10:53PM | 0 recs
addendum
There's a difference between the opportunity and the actual occurance.  I'm not predicting that a now unknown candidate will swoop in and clean up, that'd be pretty heady.  The choice between Kerry and Bush looks pretty damn solid 8 months away, and there are only about 5-10% that haven't already made up their choice.
by Jerome Armstrong 2004-04-04 12:19AM | 0 recs
And remember:
what Everitt Ehrlich argued: Now, anyone with a Web site and a server, a satellite transponder and about $100 million can have -- in a matter of months -- much of what the political parties have taken generations to build. Technology, of course, has changed politics before. Television changed the two parties, for example, but it didn't make the parties obsolete. In fact, in the day of Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy, television strengthened the two-party duopoly (the economist's term for a shared monopoly), as only those two parties had the resources to use it competitively.

& what Simon replied with:

But the Internet doesn't reinforce the parties -instead, it questions their very rationale. You don't need a political party to keep the ball rolling -- you can have a virtual party do it just as easily.

--------------------------------------------

So, though the 2004 election is very likely carved in stone already, a mixture of the ingredients is happening.  Perhaps the Democratic Party has hit it's 34 year low, and is about to rebound, using the internet as it's new-found backbone.  That'd be the best outcome, for sure.

by Jerome Armstrong 2004-04-04 12:26AM | 0 recs
39% -- wow, so many of us.
I knew there were a lot of voters, like me, who don't slate easily into the current party system...but the last figure I checked was closer to 30%.

Kos is down, but another poster and I were discussing this last night -- the lack of identification with either party and why, for some, the whole idea of a Kerry/McCain ticket is so appealing.

Too much of the Rep right is extreme and the Dems...I'm not "in" with anyone but the idea of a waffle breakfast as a Dem fundraiser has a certain irony.

So, yeah, I have to pick a side and it's annoying as all get out to know I'll be voting for Kerry, not because I think he's good or will be good for the country (not that I think he'll be bad either) but because he can't be any worse than GWB -- at least that's what I pray every night.

If you could meld Howard Dean and John McCain together, I'm thinking you'd find what a majority of those 39% are looking for, and maybe a few stragglers from the left and right.

Side note: My own state is red...but I keep hoping the signs I'm seeing mean we're veering toward a bluer shade of purple...even among those who would normally vote republican.  Between the decline in schools and the increase in property taxes, there's a whole lot of grumbling going on at the local grocery store.

by common veil 2004-04-04 07:10AM | 0 recs
Realignment?
I'd like to know a lot more about those independent and other/don't know responders. And why are the other and don't know folks lumped together? "Other" responders could be quite active supporters of minority parties while "don't know" folks could be uninvolved or just haven't made up their minds.

I'm not sure at this point if realignment toward the Democrats -- as they currently exist -- would be the best thing at all. I see minority parties as important and the more they grow the more they'll force the majors into true coalition politics again.

As far as the right goes, I think it would be great if religios right formed its own party. There would be much greater transparency of their agenda that way . . .

by cs 2004-04-04 09:39AM | 0 recs
other/not sure
Right, from the non-clarification, we don't know what this means, that's why there are so many questions.  I would bet it's a combination. That half are breaking off into 3rd parties, and half are just claiming no association whatsoever, but that's just a guess.  
by Jerome Armstrong 2004-04-04 12:54PM | 0 recs

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