A few interesting things caught my eye in Gallup’s most recent March 2023 party affiliation poll. Namely, in the decades that Gallup has been tracking party affiliation, we’ve never seen less people affiliating with Republicans or Democrats than we saw this past month.
(Technically, it’s tied with January of 2021 which also saw affiliation at 25% R and 25% D, BUT I’M TRYING TO MAKE A POINT HERE PEOPLE!!)
This is to say:
only a quarter of Americans currently identify as Republican…
only a quarter of Americans identify as Democrat…
and the rest don’t identify with a party.
But it hasn’t always been this way. If we look back 10 years, we’d find that only 36% of U.S. adults identified as ‘Independent’, which is 13 points lower than the Independent affiliation today.
Rewind the clock a little further – say March/April of 2004 – and only 3-in-10 identified as Independent.
Bullfinch saw the ramifications of this trend - large portions of Americans not identifying with either party – in our latest omnibus where many Americans preferred a less-polarizing type of candidate who works and votes with both sides of the aisle:
While this isn’t speaking to self-identification any longer, it does translate to an interest in a moderate or non-partisan type of candidate as the “Independent” garners roughly as much support as a Democratic candidate and more support than a Republican among adults nationwide.
I recognize that while trying to be an ‘unbiased’ and ‘nonpartisan’ pollster, I write a lot about the growing middle of the political spectrum… But that’s because of the massive trend happening there as of late.
In January, Jeffrey M. Jones of Gallup wrote an article wrapping up 2022 partisan demographic shifts, and peppering in some historic data himself.
On the issue of the growing ‘Independent’, Jones wrote:
Since 2011, no less than 39% of Americans have identified as independent, with the percentage 40% or higher in all but the 2016 and 2020 presidential election years. Before 2011, independent identification reached as high as 39% only twice: in 1995 and 2007.
A 2022 Gallup analysis found that increased independent identification appears to be driven in large part by Generation X and the millennial generation continuing to identify as independents as they age. In prior generations, U.S. adults became less likely to identify as independents as they got older. About half of millennials and more than four in 10 in Generation X currently identify as independents, compared with less than a third in older generations.
I personally find this wildly interesting, as I continually hear that America is and always will be a two-party system… I hear what messages are going to work best for a given party, or how a partisan candidate is better or worse at solidifying their base than another… I hear the same partisan, political rhetoric that I’ve been hearing for the last 20 years… But what I hear doesn’t seem to matchup with the reality of what I see from a political identification standpoint.
So going into a presidential primary year, when candidates strive to consolidate the base, it will be interesting to see which candidates take that center lane. At this point, it looks wide open, and there is room for a candidate to deliver the moderate / non-partisan solutions the American people are telling us they want.