The latest Gallup Poll shows that the party affiliation gap is at the narrowest it has been since 2005, when the GOP was at its high-water mark in terms of political power (holding the presidency, the House, and the Senate). According to Gallup:
The advantage in public support the Democratic Party built up during the latter part of the Bush administration and the early part of the Obama administration has all but disappeared. During the first quarter of 2010, 46% of Americans identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic, while 45% identified as or leaned Republican. The latest results, based on aggregated data from Gallup polls conducted from January to March of this year, show the closest party division since the first quarter of 2005, when the parties were tied at 46%. Democrats enjoyed double-digit advantages in party support in 11 of 12 quarters from the second quarter of 2006 to the first quarter of 2009.
By the end of last year, the Democratic advantage had shrunk to five points (47% to 42%), and it narrowed further in the most recent quarter.
The six-point rise in Republican support since the first quarter of 2009 is due entirely to a growing proportion of independents who lean to the Republican Party, rather than an increase in the percentage of Americans who identify as Republicans outright… Those who are independent or express no party preference are then asked whether they lean more toward the Democratic or the Republican Party.)
In fact, the 28% of Americans who initially identify as Republicans today is identical to the figure Gallup measured in early 2009, when the Democrats still had a double-digit advantage in support. Since then, there has been a three-point reduction in the proportion of Democratic identifiers, and a three-point decline in the percentage of Democratic-leaning independents.
Democrats maintain an edge in initial party identification over Republicans, 32% to 28%. That advantage has also shrunk over the last year, from a 35% to 28% Democratic edge in the first quarter of 2009.
What this shows is that the Democratic Party is in the process of a meltdown (the 13 point gap Democrats enjoyed at the beginning of last years has virtually vanished), and the GOP, while slowly making progress, still has work to do. The GOP’s “brand” still hasn’t fully recovered. But the loss of confidence in the Democratic Party is clearly the key development of the last 15 months. And in terms of practical outcomes, meaning election results, things could hardly be looking better for the Republican Party. Although many people may not identify themselves as Republicans outright, they certainly appear to be voting that way. It isn’t simply that all the intensity is with voters who call themselves Republican; it is that independents who are highly dissatisfied with government overwhelmingly favor Republican candidates and are much more likely to vote.
According to the most recent Pew poll:
Perhaps more troubling for Democrats, the link between dissatisfaction with government and voting intentions is at least as strong among independent voters. Independents who are highly dissatisfied with government are far more committed to voting this year than are independents who are less frustrated (78% vs. 58%). Overall, independents voters slightly favor the GOP candidate in their district by a 41% to 34% margin, but those who are highly dissatisfied with government favor the Republican candidate by an overwhelming 66% to 13% margin. Independents who are less dissatisfied with government favor the Democratic candidate in their district (by 49% to 24%), but are much less likely to say they are certain to vote.
It appears as if the more people are exposed to Obama and Obamaism, the further and faster the Democratic Party falls. But they ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The first Tuesday in November is when Democrats stop falling and really begin absorbing the damage from the fall. It will be, for them, an immensely painful experience. Comeuppances often are.