More Americans identify as Democrats than Republicans by a margin that hasn’t been seen in a decade, according to a report released by Gallup on Wednesday.
An average of 49% of adults 18 and older reported Democratic Party affiliation or said they are Democrat-leaning independents during the first quarter of 2021, the pollster reported. The survey was conducted by phone from January to March.
By comparison, 40% of adults identified as Republican or Republican-leaning. The 9% difference is the Democrats’ biggest lead since the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the report.
The remaining 11% of those surveyed were independent politicians with no partisan leanings.
Democrats typically have a 4-6 point lead over Republicans. Shortly before the first quarter of the year, the enrollment gap was virtually non-existent before the Democrats’ lead widened by 9%.
The report also noted a 6% increase in independents; from 38% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 44% in the first quarter of 2021. It is the highest percentage since 2013, when 46% of respondents identified themselves as independent. The increase correlates with the decline in identification of the Republican Party, much like in 2013, when the Republican Party saw a drop in popularity during the government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act.
Party identification is required in every Gallup poll, according to senior editor Jeff Jones, who is also the report’s author.
“It’s something that we think is important to track to give an idea of the relevant strength of the two sides at any given time and how party preferences are responding to events,” Jones told USA TODAY.
The sampling error margin for the survey was plus or minus 2 percentage points.
The events build loyalty to the party, Jones said. Gallup’s latest measures on political affiliation were taken during the inauguration of President Joe Biden, days after supporters of former President Donald Trump attacked the United States Capitol building on January 6.
“I think we are seeing a similar dynamic with Trump leaving office, again with a very low approval rating and (the excitement around) Biden taking office,” Jones said.
Trump ended his presidency with a job approval rating of 29%, the lowest in its history, as previously reported by USA TODAY.
The approval of the COVID-19 aid package in March, a decline in new coronavirus infections and deaths, and the push for mass vaccines preceded an increase in affinity for the Democratic Party, according to Gallup.
Fewer people die from COVID-19 thanks to vaccination efforts targeting vulnerable populations. But the United States continues to report high levels of cases.
Past jumps in party affiliations
The rise in Democratic membership after Biden’s inauguration mirrors that of former President Barack Obama’s first term, Jones said.
“That was really the highest point we’ve ever seen; sort of from 2006-2009, when in reality most Americans identified as Democrats or were independent, but they leaned toward the party,” he said. “Our data on this only goes back to the 1990s, but it’s pretty much the only time we’ve had a game consistently with the majority of Americans on their side.”
Republican advantages, though rarer and short-lived, followed the 1991 Gulf War, when George HW Bush was in office, and the September 11 terrorist attacks during the term of President George W. Bush, according to Gallup. . More people also reported their GOP affiliation after the 1994, 2010, and 2014 midterm elections.
Whether the Republican Party can regain the upper hand during the 2022 midterm elections may depend on the successes of the Biden administration, according to Jones.
“A lot will depend on how things go over the course of the year. If things improve with the coronavirus and the economy recovers and a lot of people hope that Biden can maintain relatively strong approval ratings, then that will be better for the Democrats.” Jones said. “But if things start to get worse, unemployment increases or the coronavirus worsens, then his approval will decline. It will improve things a lot for the Republican Party mid-term next year.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gallup Poll Shows Large Increase in Democratic Party Affiliation