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U.S. Party Preferences Steady During Trump Era
Politics

U.S. Party Preferences Steady During Trump Era

U.S. Party Preferences Steady During Trump Era

Story Highlights

  • 47% of Americans align with the Democratic Party, 42% with the Republican Party
  • Little change in party preferences over the past four years
  • Identification as politically independent remains elevated

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In 2019, on average, 47% of U.S. adults identified politically as Democrats or said they were independents who leaned toward the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, 42% identified as Republicans or were Republican-leaning independents.

Americans' political leanings have been quite stable since 2016, the year Donald Trump was elected president. The Democratic figure has not changed in the past four years, and the Republican figure has been 41% or 42% each year since 2012.

Line graph. Democrats have held a five- or six-point advantage in party identification and leaning since 2016.

The latest results are based on aggregated data across all Gallup Poll surveys in 2019, which include interviews with more than 29,000 U.S. adults.

Democrats have typically held an advantage in U.S. party preferences since 1991, the first year Gallup regularly began probing independents' party leanings when measuring party identification. In fact, the current five-percentage-point Democratic advantage matches the average since 1991.

Republicans had an advantage in only one year -- 1991, when President George H.W. Bush had high job approval ratings after the U.S. victory in the Persian Gulf War. Republicans tied Democrats in three other years -- 2002 and 2003, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and 2011, at the height of the Tea Party movement.

The Democrats' largest advantages on party affiliation came between 2006 and 2008, during George W. Bush's second term in office. During those years, the U.S. was engaged in a prolonged war in Iraq and the economy suffered from a series of shocks, including the bursting of the housing bubble, high gas prices, an economic recession and the financial crisis.

Before now, there was only one other period when party preferences were essentially unchanged for four years in a row -- the middle to latter years of Bill Clinton's presidency, from 1996 to 1999, when Democratic affiliation was 48% or 49% and Republican affiliation ranged between 40% and 42%.

More Americans Still Identify Initially as Independents Than With Either Party

Overall, in 2019, 41% of U.S. adults identified as political independents. This total includes 17% who subsequently indicated that they lean to the Democratic Party; 14% who said they leaned to the Republican Party; and 10% who did not lean toward either party.

The percentage of political independents has been 40% or higher in eight of the past nine years -- all but the 2016 presidential election year -- peaking at 43% in 2014. Before 2011, the proportion of independents had never reached the 40% level.

Last year, on average, 30% of Americans identified outright as Democrats (before independents' leanings were added in) and 28% identified as Republicans. Republican identification has increased slightly since bottoming out at 25% in 2013 but has not reached the 30% level since 2006. Democratic identification has held right around the 30% mark during the past six years after being above it every year prior.

Line graph. The percentage of U.S. adults identifying as independents has been higher since 2010, including 41% in 2019.

Implications

As the 2020 presidential election campaign gets underway in earnest, Americans' party leanings are the same as they were in 2016, indicating the Trump era has not fundamentally altered the U.S. political landscape.

Given that Trump was able to prevail in 2016 when Democrats held a five-point advantage in party preferences, other factors -- particularly voter turnout -- will help decide which party wins the presidency in 2020. Voter turnout will be especially crucial in states that Trump won or lost narrowly in 2016, most notably three Rust Belt states he won (Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania) that the GOP had lost in the six previous presidential elections.

The 2020 election does present voters with a slightly different choice than the 2016 election did, given Trump's status as an incumbent. As in all elections involving an incumbent, voters' decision may represent a referendum on the incumbent's performance more than a choice of which of the two major parties offer the best plans for leading the nation over the next four years.

Learn more about public opinion metrics that matter for the 2020 presidential election at Gallup's 2020 Presidential Election Center.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/274694/party-preferences-steady-during-trump-era.aspx
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