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The biggest winner of the first year of Democratic control of the government since 2013 appeared to be the Republican Party, after a new Gallup Party Identification poll showed that the GOP is enjoying its biggest advantage over the Democrats since 2010. The latest survey has 47% of American voters either identifying or leaning with the Republicans, while Democrats only garner 42% of the electorate. 2021 has been brutal year for a party that will have to defend their majorities in Congress this fall.
The numbers are even worst for the Democrats as they entered the first quarter of 2021 with a sizeable advantage over the GOP, as 49% of Americans identified with democrats while only 40% did the same with the GOP. However, Democrats managed to destroy the nine-point lead as Biden oversaw a record-setting inflation rate, a catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, a stalled legislative agenda, and an unprecedented crisis at the border.
The brutal year for Democrats, in numbers
The jaw-dropping shift (a net of 14 percentage points) comes at a time when Biden is also facing terrible poll numbers within the Latino electorate and just a few months after the shattering defeat of Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial election of last year. The numbers might be a sign of very troubling times for the aspirations of the Democratic Party, as they will have to defend their razor-thin majorities in Congress during the midterm elections in November.
The Gallup survey also shows that the national mood soured against the Democrats during the second semester of 2021, at the same time that national polls began recording a significant decrease in the job approval numbers of Biden. Republicans managed to improve their numbers by four points during the last two quarters of last year.
The data is very significant as Democrats have managed to maintain a significant advantage in Party ID since the 1990s, although Republicans have gained the upper hand in some moments. If the GOP can solidify the data from the last quarter of 2021 and turn it into a trend, the Democratic Party will be facing a tremendous electoral and political challenge not only in this year’s midterms but for the foreseeable future.
Democrats are bleeding support from Independents
The survey also shows that although Democrats lost support on all fronts, although their biggest losses came from independent voters. The data from Gallup shows that the percentage of independents that aligned themselves with the Democrats went from 19% at the beginning of the year to 14% in the last quarter. Democrats also lost some support among core believers, as the number of people who labeled themselves as Democrats diminished from 30% to 28% throughout the year.
In contrast, Republicans have increased their support among both core party members and independent leaning voters. The GOP began last year at a clear disadvantage, as only 15% of voters were independents who leaned Republicans and only 25% identified themselves as Republicans, however, after a few months of Biden leadership, the GOP ended 2021 with 19% of Independents leaning Republican and 28% of respondents identifying as Republicans.
Most Americans classify themselves as independents
Despite the current polarized political landscape, which is completely dominated by the two main American political parties, the Gallup Party Identification survey showed that a substantial plurality of Americans (42%) identify themselves as neither Democrats nor Republicans. The amount of people classifying themselves as Independents has increased significantly since 2006 when only 35% of Americans thought of themselves to be Independents. By contrast, the number of people classifying themselves as partisans from either party has been in constant decline.
This latest point is of great significance for the political fortunes of both Democrats and Republicans, as Biden’s loss of popularity has been mainly driven by Latinos and Independent voters, who have gone from largely approving the job of the president to deeply disapprove of him.
Biden has begun his second year concerned over the Democrats’ voting legislation or attempting to destroy the filibuster. Whether that tactic will work to regain the support of the American people before November or the Democrat’s woes will deepen in 2022 remains to be seen.
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.