Beyond the widely reported change in party identification from a 9-point Democratic edge at the start of 2021 to a 5-point Republican advantage at the end of the year lies another saga, beneath the waves. The number of independent voters who do not identify with a political party, has risen from 38% in 2018 to 42% in 2021.
While more Americans say they are Independents, they are leaning more to the GOP than to the Democrats. In surveys by the Gallup Polling Organization, party leanings among Independents flipped dramatically in ’21 from a four-point Democratic edge at the start of the year to a five-point Republican advantage at year’s end.
This nine-point swing in the party leanings of Independents heralds an even more dramatic change in the coming months. Democrats are becoming Independents as a kind of halfway house on the way to a shift in party identification to Republican. It shows that the trend is still happening as we enter ’22 with its Congressional contests.
To put the shift to the GOP in perspective, the current five-point Republican lead is one of the few times they have been ahead. In the past forty years, the GOP only led in 1991 (after Bush-41’s victory in Kuwait) and 2001 (as the country rallied behind Bush-43 in the wake of 9-11).
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