PRINCETON, NJ -- For the first time since President Barack Obama took office, the percentage of Americans identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic held steady in a quarter's worth of Gallup poll data. Prior to the second quarter of 2010, the percentage aligning themselves with the Democratic Party had declined at least slightly each quarter since early 2009.
With 46% of Americans identifying either as Democrats or as independents who say they lean to the Democratic Party, and 43% identifying as Republican or leaning Republican, Democrats now hold a three percentage-point advantage in party affiliation. The gap between the two parties had shrunk from 13 points when Obama took office to just 1 point in the first quarter of this year. That one-point gap in the first quarter of 2010 was the smallest Gallup had recorded in five years.
The current results are based on an average of four Gallup and USA Today/Gallup polls conducted in the second quarter of 2010, including interviews with more than 4,000 U.S. adults. Gallup's Daily tracking survey, which also includes a measure of party identification and leaning, shows a similar four-point Democratic advantage (44% to 40%) in the second quarter of 2010 through June 28 interviewing.
Republicans' Recent Rise in Support Remains "Soft"
While the total percentage of Republicans, including independents who lean Republican, has increased since the start of 2009 (from 39% to 43%), this increase is exclusively the result of a greater percentage of Republican-leaning independents. Over the past 15 months, the percentage of Americans who initially identify as Republican, the party's core supporters, has held steady at 27% or 28%.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party's losses since early 2009 have occurred about equally among Democratic identifiers (down from 35% to 32%) and Democratic-leaning independents (down from 17% to 14%).
The net result is that Democrats still claim a higher, though reduced, proportion of solid supporters or outright identifiers with the party (32%, compared to 28% Republican identifiers).
The Democratic Party was riding high when Obama took office. In addition to reclaiming the presidency, the party increased its majorities in both houses of Congress and enjoyed a double-digit lead in party support among the American public. But over the past 15 months, the Democrats' advantage in party affiliation has decreased and the parties are now more competitive in this regard, though the decline stopped in the second quarter.
At this point, some four months before the 2010 midterm elections, Gallup finds registered voters about equally divided between the two major parties in their vote choice for the candidate in their local district. With neither party holding a significant advantage in voter support, the outcome in total seats won by each party may eventually be decided on the basis of turnout among each party's supporters, an area in which Republicans usually have an advantage.
Results are based on combined telephone interviews from Gallup polls conducted in April, May, and June 2010, with a random sample of 4,112 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.