Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Weakening Wingnuts

That title may be more wishful thinking than reality, but a recent Gallup survey indicates that Americans are increasingly leaving the Republican party:

The increasing Democratic advantage is mainly due to declining Republican identification, rather than increasing Democratic identification. From 2004-2006, Republican identification declined from 34% to 30%, while Democratic identification increased by less than a percentage point (33.6% to 34.3%). During the last three years, the percentage of Americans identifying as independents increased from 31% to 34%.

The Democrats' advantage expands when taking into account the "leanings" of independents. In 2006, 50% of Americans identified as Democrats or were independents who said they leaned toward the Democratic Party. Forty percent identified as Republicans or leaned to the Republican Party. That 10-point advantage more than doubled the Democrats' 4-point advantage in 2005, and is the largest gap Gallup has measured in any year for either party since it regularly began tracking leaned party identification in 1991. This is the first time since 1991 that a party's support reached the 50% level.

I don't really care if people who leave the Republican party become Independents instead of Democrats (except for Joe Lieberman, natch). I don't care if they all decide to become Patriotic Smurfs or singing teacups or whatever, as long as they are no longer wingnuts.

The whole Gallup survey is quite interesting. Consider this bit:

With only six states falling into the Republican column in 2006, one may wonder why Democrats did not do even better in the 2006 elections. The measures here only take into account respondents' reported partisan leanings. Differences in turnout by partisan groups and candidate- or campaign-specific factors can offset or overcome basic party leanings in an election. To illustrate the point, Democrats enjoyed strong advantages in party identification in the 1970s and 1980s while Republican candidates won four of the five presidential elections during those decades. Since Republicans usually have an advantage in turnout, everything else being equal they should fare better in the competitive states than Democrats.

The presidential campaigns might not be the best example to study this question, because the race is run so heavily on individual reputations and rumors and values and shit and because the candidates do the Tweedledee and Tweedledum bit as the election day approaches: they pretend to become ever more alike to catch the elusive still-undecided fence-sitting voter. But Gallup seems to have information going back to early 1990s, and studying these figures and their correlation with Congressional election results during that time frame would be truly a very fascinating exercise.