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Democratic Edge in Party Affiliation Shrinks

Democratic Edge in Party Affiliation Shrinks

Story Highlights

  • Democrats hold six-point edge, 48% to 42%
  • Down from 11 points in June
  • Democratic advantage is still larger than in first five months of 2020

Editor's Note: The story has been edited to clarify the timing of data collection in reference to the party conventions.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the Republican convention gets underway, recent Gallup polling finds the GOP still trailing Democrats in U.S. adults' party affiliation but not nearly to the degree it did in June. The Democratic advantage over the Republican Party, which was an unusually large 11-percentage-points in June, is now six points. Though smaller, the current gap remains larger than it was in any of the first five months of the year.


Line graph. The six point advantage in Democratic party identification and leaning in July and August is down from 11 points in June. But the Democratic advantage was only as large as three points between January and May.

The results are based on monthly averages of Gallup's U.S. polling in 2020, including multiple surveys in January, February, March, April and June. The August figures were collected before last week's Democratic National Convention and do not reflect the possible impact of that convention on Americans' party preferences.

Since June, the percentage of Americans who identify as Democrats or say they are independents who lean to the Democratic Party has fallen two points, from 50% to 48%. Meanwhile, Republican Party identification and leaning is up three points, from 39% to 42%.

The sharp changes that occurred in June came amid nationwide protests over racial justice that followed the death of George Floyd in police custody. President Donald Trump's job approval rating fell 10 points from early May to early June as his response to the protests was widely criticized. His unpopularity likely prompted many Americans to shift away from the Republican Party, or to the Democratic Party, at that time.

While protest activity has continued in the past two months, it has been on a smaller scale. Possibly as a result, fewer Americans in August (10%) than in June (19%) say race relations or racism is the most important problem facing the country. Over the same time, Trump's approval rating has improved modestly to 42%.

Historical Perspective and Election Relevance

Democrats have typically held an edge in the U.S. population, with an average of 47% of Americans aligning with the Democratic Party and 43% with the Republican Party since Gallup began routinely measuring party leaning in 1991.

Party affiliation is a strong predictor of people's voting preferences. Democrats' current six-point advantage in combined party identification and leaning is larger than it was in 2016, when Trump was elected, as well as in 2004 when George W. Bush was reelected with a popular vote majority. It is similar to what it was on Election Day in 2008 and 2012 when Obama won both elections. However, in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 presidential election years, when Democrats won the popular vote if not the Electoral College vote, Democrats had larger advantages in party affiliation than they do now.

Party Affiliation in the Final Month Before Prior Presidential Elections
Based on national adults
Lean Democratic
Lean Republican
% % pct. pts.
Oct-Nov 2016 45 42 +3
Oct-Nov 2012 49 42 +7
October 2008 50 42 +8
October 2004 48 46 +2
October 2000 51 40 +11
October 1996 52 41 +11
October 1992 51 41 +10
Figures are averages of Gallup polls in October and early November leading up to the election.

Bottom Line

The strong Democratic tilt in the U.S. population observed in June proved to be short-lived, perhaps indicating the presumed Democratic wave may not be as strong as expected. Still, the Democratic Party is in a more advantageous position now than in the first part of 2020, and Joe Biden continues to hold consistent leads over Trump in preelection preference polls. Trump's still-weak job approval ratings remain a significant obstacle to his own reelection prospects, and possibly for Republican candidates further down the ballot.

The next several weeks will be an intense political period as Biden and Trump make their cases to voters through speeches, advertisements, voter outreach and debates. Like the conventions, the campaigning is taking on a different form this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, and it is unclear whether virtual campaigning will have the same impact as in-person campaigning. Also, with many voters likely to cast their ballots by mail this year, the usual timeline to persuade undecided voters may be shorter.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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