Gallup published their quarterly report on partisan affiliation in the United States on Wednesday, showing that the GOP trails Democrats in party affiliation. The results surprised the RNC as the poll shows that the Republican Party is trailing Democrats in party affiliation, showing the Democrats have increased their base.
The survey, which was conducted between January and March and included 3,960 adults of voting age and living all across the country, showed that 49% of Americans consider themselves as either Democrats or as Independents who lean towards the Democratic Party, while only 40% of those surveyed said the same about the Republican Party.
This gap represents the biggest difference between both parties since the last quarter of 2012, at the height of the Obama reelection campaign. Although it is not the lowest point the Republican Party has experienced over the last twenty years, with the GOP having the worst numbers during the last two years of the George W. Bush Presidency.
Democrats are likely celebrating these numbers, especially when paired with the positive numbers Joe Biden is having during his first months as president, also known as the “honeymoon period”, with 53.3% of Americans approving of his job performance, in comparison with 39.7% who disapprove, according to FiveThirtyEight. Former President Trump never had such “honeymoon period.”
The Biden White House is likely to use this favorable political environment to keep pushing for their preferred policy measures through his slim majority in Congress (Infrastructure, Gun Control, Immigration, Voting Reform, etc.) while also tout the successful vaccination data and the popularity of the COVID relief bill as a way to press the political narrative in their favor.
However, Biden and his party colleagues should not assume this advantage in the polls ensures them electoral success, as Democrats have constantly held an advantage over the GOP in this measurement over the last two decades, but still managed to lose many presidential and legislative elections.
According to the Gallup Poll, the GOP trails Democrats, but history shows some paths for Republican recovery
There is another set of data, however, that does not paint such a daunting scenario for Republicans. When asked between Republican, Democrat, and Independent (taking away the lean options) the GOP is only 5% behind the Democratic Party. Although, even in this data Republicans are having the lowest numbers (25%) since also 2012.
These results might not be as useful as those including the lean-Republican or lean-Democrat as people who support one party tend to categorize themselves as Independents when taken away the opportunity of classifying themselves as moderate supporters of their preferred party.
This could be clearly observed in the data, with the number of Independents increasing from 11% with the lean/Rep-lean/Dem option to a whopping 44% when only given the choices of Democratic, Republican, or Independent.
The GOP has time to recover, though, with the midterm elections being two years in the future. Republicans, by the way, also found themselves in a similar position in early 2009, when the majority of Americans categorized themselves as either Democrats or Democratic-leaning during the first year of the Obama presidency.
Republicans, however, managed to dig themselves out of that hole and won an outstanding majority in the 2010 midterms, capturing the majority of the House of Representatives and took away 6 senate seats from the Democrats in a historic landslide election. Republicans also were at a disadvantage in the months before the 2016 election, and we all know how that vote ended up.
Another factor that Republicans might look at with some optimism is the retirement of Trump (who left the presidency with high unpopularity numbers) from the daily public conversation and the rise of new leaders who might help the party numbers in the future.
Back in 2010, Republicans tapped into the general disapproval of how the Obama presidency handled the Great Recession and the unpopularity of the Obamacare bill. Will the same script work for the 2022 midterms and the Biden presidency? Only time will tell.