Last year brought a seismic shift in Americans’ political preferences, new Gallup polling shows. Gallup’s results swung from a 9-point Democratic lead in the first quarter to a 5-point Republican advantage in the fourth quarter. That’s the largest-ever shift in one calendar year over Gallup’s 30 years of polling.
The change is due to people’s reactions to party leaders, Axios reports. Former President Trump was unpopular when he left office. And President Biden saw his poll numbers start to sink last summer.
It also shows the enduring influence of Independents in America’s political landscape. Last year, fully 42 percent of U.S. adults identified as Independents, compared to 29 percent as Democrats and 27 percent as Republicans.
Political Landscape Has Rarely Been As Favorable to the GOP
It’s been a while since Republicans had that significant of an advantage in Americans’ political preferences, according to Gallup. Since 1991, there have been only four quarters in which the GOP had a 5-point advantage in polling.
“The Republicans last held a five-point advantage in party identification and leaning in early 1995, after winning control of the House of Representatives for the first time since the 1950s,” Gallup explained. “Republicans had a larger advantage only in the first quarter of 1991, after the U.S. victory in the Persian Gulf War led by then-President George H.W. Bush.”
Gallup found shifts among both core party identifiers and less-attached leaners last year. But as one might expect, there was a greater shift among the less-attached swing voters and Independents than among the political party stalwarts.
GOP Advantage May Already Be Slipping
However, it’s worth keeping an eye on those numbers to see where they go from here. Because Gallup’s December polling put the two parties almost even. About 46 percent of respondents were Republican or Republican-leaning compared to 44 percent Democratic or Democrat-leaning.
Gallup started tracking party leaning in 1991. And since then, most years have been more favorable to Democrats than to Republicans. In 1991, Republicans enjoyed an advantage (but then the 1992 presidential election swept Democrat Bill Clinton into office). From 2001 to 2003 and from 2010 to 2011, Gallup found roughly equal levels of support for each party.
Meanwhile, the share of Americans identifying as Independents has been steadily rising over the last decade. Since 2011, four in 10 Americans have identified as Independents. And it is increasingly Independents who decide elections.
All told, Gallup found that “the political winds continued to become more favorable to Republicans” at the end of last year, but how long that remains the case is yet to be seen.