Democrats Make Large Gains In Partisan Self-Identification
by Chris Bowers, Wed Jan 31, 2007 at 10:46:47 AM EST
The increasing Democratic advantage is mainly due to declining Republican identification, rather than increasing Democratic identification. From 2004-2006, Republican identification declined from 34% to 30%, while Democratic identification increased by less than a percentage point (33.6% to 34.3%). During the last three years, the percentage of Americans identifying as independents increased from 31% to 34%.
The Democrats' advantage expands when taking into account the "leanings" of independents. In 2006, 50% of Americans identified as Democrats or were independents who said they leaned toward the Democratic Party. Forty percent identified as Republicans or leaned to the Republican Party. That 10-point advantage more than doubled the Democrats' 4-point advantage in 2005, and is the largest gap Gallup has measured in any year for either party since it regularly began tracking leaned party identification in 1991. This is the first time since 1991 that a party's support reached the 50% level.Two things. First, the current Democratic advantage is mainly due to movement within the Independent pool. Many people who previously identified as Republicans are now identifying as Independents, and many Independents who once leaned toward Republicans are now leaning toward Democrats. This means that while Democrats have gained, it is not yet a realignment. We will have achieved realignment-level success when this movement within the Independent pool moves all the way toward more people identifying as Democrats. Given the long-term trend of more people to self-identify with neither major party, this might prove exceedingly difficult.
Second, on a more positive note, the rate of change in favor of Democrats appears to be increasing. The last nine months of 2006 saw an average Democratic advantage of 11.5%, and the final three months of 2006 saw a Democratic advantage of 14.2%. This compares with a stable Democratic advantage of 6.6% from July of 2005 through March of 2006. The percentage of Democratic self-identifiers, not including Democratic-leaning independents, rose by 2-2.5% during the final nine months of 2006. This might suggest that Democrats are in fact on the verge of a very real realignment.
State level data shows even more good news: Based on their 2006 averages in leaned party identification, Gallup classifies 33 states as Democratic in orientation (the state showed a statistically significant advantage in Democratic leaning in 2006) and six as Republican (the state showed a statistically significant advantage in Republican leaning in 2006). The remaining 10 states (including District of Columbia, but not including Alaska and Hawaii since Gallup does not interview in those states) are considered competitive, because the leading party's advantage is within the margin of error for that state's data. The overall results show a net gain of six states for Democrats and a net loss of six for Republicans from 2005. The shift since 2003 has been dramatic, when Republican-leaning states outnumbered Democratic-leaning states 20-14. Over the past three years, Republicans have lost their advantage in 14 states, and Democrats have gained a statistically significant advantage in 19 states. Since 2003, the individual gains and losses were as follows:
- States where Republicans no longer have an edge: Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee
- States where Democrats have gained an edge: Delaware, Florida, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin
- States where both took place: Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Virginia
- States where Democrats lost an edge: Louisiana