I have written several times in recent weeks about the various power struggles taking place within the Republican party – whether at the local, state or national level. These battles have become quite acerbic, and with partisan primary races looming next spring here in South Carolina – and the quadrennial “First in the South” presidential primary following shortly thereafter – I suspect they will grow even more contentious.
In assessing these turf wars, though, it is important to keep in mind the electoral boundaries being contested by these partisans … i.e. the current dimensions of the GOP vote.
According to the latest polling from Gallup, the Republican share of the electorate is receding almost as fast as my hair line.
During the first quarter of 2021, 49 percent of Americans either identified with the Democratic party or described themselves as independents who leaned Democratic. Meanwhile, 40 percent of Americans identified with the Republican party or described themselves as independents who leaned toward the GOP.
That nine-point gap is the largest spread for either party in nearly a decade …
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Breaking the numbers down further, 30 percent of Americans said they were Democrats while another 19 percent said they were “Democratic-leaning independents,” according to Gallup. Meanwhile, 25 percent of Americans classified themselves as Republicans while 15 percent said they were “Republican-leaning independents.”
Most of the remaining 11 percent were independents who said they had no partisan leanings … which is exactly how I would have answered had Gallup’s pollsters called me.
Prior to being asked which party they would “lean” to, though, the total number of independent voters stood at 44 percent – which was up from 38 percent during the fourth quarter of 2020.
Funny … now imagine there was a third party which appealed to them.
You know … like maybe a fiscally conservative, socially libertarian party that wants to see less of government in our businesses and in our back yards.
Anyway, according to Gallup’s pollsters upticks in independent identification are to be expected in years following presidential races – but this year’s increase is part of a decade-long pattern that has seen independent identification surge to its highest levels ever recorded.
“The percentages identifying as independent in 2020 and thus far in 2021 have been unusually high compared with prior presidential election and odd-numbered years,” noted Jeffrey N. Jones, Gallup’s senior editor. “Thus, the current level of independent identification ranks among the highest Gallup has measured in any quarter since 1988, with the high being 46 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013.”
Here is a look at those trends …
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Based on the latest Gallup survey, the uptick in Americans identifying as independents came almost entirely as a result of people leaving the GOP – as the Republican party saw its ranks shrink by four percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2020. Democrats, meanwhile, saw only a one-point decline in their numbers over the same period.
“With more of the gain in independent identification coming from the Republican side of the ledger, the GOP is facing its smallest share of Republican identifiers since 2018 and its largest deficit to Democrats on party identification and leaning in nearly nine years,” Jones noted.
Indeed, the Republican “tent” is only three percentage points above its all-time low of 22 percent – which was recorded in the fourth quarter of 2013.
In South Carolina, Republicans obviously remain the dominant party – as evidenced by the rout they enjoyed in last fall’s statewide elections. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon, but the GOP majority at the S.C. State House has clearly not distinguished itself in terms of choosing which issues to advance.
Count on my website to keep an eye on these partisan identification numbers – as well as the latest polling from the Palmetto State – as the upcoming election cycles approach. As of this writing, though, it seems clear the national GOP civil war is being fought on a map that looks worse for Republicans with each passing day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading.
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