Are the parties over?

posted at 10:41 am on January 8, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Republicans have understood for decades that it’s not considered “cool” to be part of the GOP, except perhaps in a weird, transgressive way among the contrarians of contrarians. These days, though, Democrats may have to get used to that dismissal. According to Gallup, the percentage of adults identifying as political independents have hit an all-time high, and party identification has dropped for both major parties:

Forty-two percent of Americans, on average, identified as political independents in 2013, the highest Gallup has measured since it began conducting interviews by telephone 25 years ago. Meanwhile, Republican identification fell to 25%, the lowest over that time span. At 31%, Democratic identification is unchanged from the last four years but down from 36% in 2008.

And the news is worse for the Republicans than it is for the Democrats:

Americans’ increasing shift to independent status has come more at the expense of the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Republican identification peaked at 34% in 2004, the year George W. Bush won a second term in office. Since then, it has fallen nine percentage points, with most of that decline coming during Bush’s troubled second term. When he left office, Republican identification was down to 28%. It has declined or stagnated since then, improving only slightly to 29% in 2010, the year Republicans “shellacked” Democrats in the midterm elections.

Not since 1983, when Gallup was still conducting interviews face to face, has a lower percentage of Americans, 24%, identified as Republicans than is the case now. That year, President Ronald Reagan remained unpopular as the economy struggled to emerge from recession. By the following year, amid an improving economy and re-election for the increasingly popular incumbent president, Republican identification jumped to 30%, a level generally maintained until 2007.

Why might that be? In 2007, widespread dissatisfaction about the aggressive foreign policy of George Bush probably pushed the more libertarian and/or isolationist Republicans out of the fold. The emergence of the Tea Party in 2009/10 provided a movement within the Right with which to identify more than party affiliation. (It’s worth noting that Democrats don’t have anything analogous to that pressure now, too.) Those forces, along with age and ethnic demographic pressures, surely contributed to a narrowing of Republican affiliation.

However, Democrats haven’t been immune, either. When Barack Obama first won the presidency, Democratic affiliation peaked at 36%, the highest in Gallup history. It’s now at 31%, and has been since 2010 — on an annual, averaged basis. Look what has happened in 2013, though:

gallup-2013-partyaffil

Both parties have lost affiliation by a relatively significant margin in 2013, with Democrats dropping 4 points and the GOP dropping five — with most of the movement of the latter before the shutdown. All of that went to the “independent” banner, which gained nine points in the past year on a quarterly basis.

How about leaners? The news there is bad for Republicans, too. In 2011, the GOP had eliminated a 12-point deficit to tie up with Democrats 45/45. The gap has gone back to a six-point deficit, 47/41. Oddly, though, the polls for the generic Congressional ballot show a dead heat, according to the RCP average, which suggests that this annualization of 2013 results on binary choice may be missing a late trend. The chart at RCP more than suggests that case, too.

Nevertheless, the overall trend demonstrates that both parties are losing ground with the electorate. This might be a reflection of a lack of commonality between elected officials and leading party activists and the electorate as a whole, or it could be a cultural shift in which individualism triumphs over venerable institutions in general. Both parties need to take stock, and take stock quickly, if they want to maintain their relevance — or watch as alternate parties grow large enough to turn them both into the Whigs.


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Yep, more conservatives becoming independents and leaving the Republican party.

22044 on January 8, 2014 at 10:42 AM

I hope so. This two party sham needs to come to an end.

rickv404 on January 8, 2014 at 10:44 AM

22044 on January 8, 2014 at 10:42 AM

Exactly. When GOP is democrat-light, there’s no point to staying. I dropped my affiliation as well.

devil dog on January 8, 2014 at 10:47 AM

Independent = embarrassed regressive retard in general. I am sure there are outliers, but for the most part, voting records seem to show it as the case.

astonerii on January 8, 2014 at 10:53 AM

When Barack Obama first won the presidency, Democratic affiliation peaked at 36%, the highest in Gallup history.

It’s much higher if you count Illegal aliens and dead people.

redzap on January 8, 2014 at 10:55 AM

I’m not ready to be chased out of MY party.
And, I’m even less inclined to run out and pronounce myself as an independent. These are the idiots who wake up every four years, decide what their principles are this year. And then vote.

AllahsNippleHair on January 8, 2014 at 10:59 AM

I was a Donk for 30, then moved to the GOP/conservative side after 9/11 because I found Dubya & conservatives to be more intellectually honest than my former comrades.

Voted for W enthusiastically in 04, McCain tepidly in 08 and Mittens reluctantly in 12.

If the GOP nominates another in 16 Mittens/McCain (are you listening, Fat Man?) I am done with the GOP and will throw away my vote for a Libertarian or someone else who at least has a shred of standing for conservative principles.

Bruno Strozek on January 8, 2014 at 10:59 AM

I’m one of these that left the Republican Party after Rubio pulled his nonsense. I’m now a registered Independent. With that said, you can rest assured that I will NEVER vote for a DEMOCRAT…..EVER!

Winebabe on January 8, 2014 at 10:59 AM

To paraphrase Reagan: I didn’t leave my party. My party left me.

I’ll NEVER again hold my nose and vote. Give us another W, McCain, or Romney, and I’m staying home like I did after last voting for Palin for VP. Their choices are failing. Why not try an actual “unelectable” conservative? Will he lose any worse than losing to Obama with over 8% unemployment, $1.5 Trillion of annual deficit, and debt that requires exponents to define it, as base numbers don’t go that high?

Oh… that’s right. Romney was “electable.”

My hairy @ss.

Wino on January 8, 2014 at 11:00 AM

The differences between the parties voting records are not that far apart.

Their philosophy during elections are different, but their voting records are pretty close.

portlandon on January 8, 2014 at 11:00 AM

This might be a reflection of a lack of commonality between elected officials and leading party activists and the electorate as a whole, or it could be a cultural shift in which individualism triumphs over venerable institutions in general.

I’d suggest it is a little bit of both.

Hard for a voter struggling to make ends meet and paying thousands more in health insurance (thanks to Obamacare) to connect with the rat-eared dictator’s lecture about protecting the unemployed- while he’s spending millions of taxpayer dollars on a vacation. Hard for a voter to connect with his Congresscritters when they seem deafer each year to the concerns of the “folks back home.” And politicians out of office never go back home, they stay in DC and become lobbyists.

At the same time, there is a general erosion in the public trust of institutions.

Happy Nomad on January 8, 2014 at 11:01 AM

It would have been nice to show where the migrating Repubs and Dems went. A couple of other labels would have been nice – i.e. went more conservative or went more liberal.

I don’t think many of these so-called new independents just dropped off the political grid. They’ve migrated somewhere.

iamsaved on January 8, 2014 at 11:03 AM

Republicans have understood for decades that it’s not considered “cool” to be part of the GOP, except perhaps in a weird, transgressive way among the contrarians of contrarians.

LOL

That’s me.

Fallon on January 8, 2014 at 11:04 AM

Exactly. When GOP is democrat-light, there’s no point to staying. I dropped my affiliation as well.

devil dog on January 8, 2014 at 10:47 AM

Yep. Though I’m sure this survey will be taken as a sign by the GOP party bosses that they just haven’t moved far enough to the left yet.

Independent = embarrassed regressive retard in general. I am sure there are outliers, but for the most part, voting records seem to show it as the case.

astonerii on January 8, 2014 at 10:53 AM

I think an increasingly large number of them (at this point) are conservative Republicans who are walking away from the GOP. I know I am one of them.

Doomberg on January 8, 2014 at 11:05 AM

Harry Reid refuses to find offsets for extension of unemployment benefits. Won’t even consider preventing illegals from getting their tax credit for breeding. If you want to know why people are less likely to identify with a party you need look no further than Reid’s obstructionism.

Happy Nomad on January 8, 2014 at 11:05 AM

When the Republican speaker of the house feels comfortable lambasting the conservatives who put him into power in the first place, and with current GOP leadership this soft on immigration, and this gutless on going hammer and tongs with the democrats, who’s surprised?

CaptFlood on January 8, 2014 at 11:07 AM

Well, it’s hard to be a donk if you’re sane. And, it’s hard to be a pubbie if you have any integrity.

trigon on January 8, 2014 at 11:08 AM

There is no real conservative party. The two that exist are liberal and progressive. Neither represent my views.

sadatoni on January 8, 2014 at 11:16 AM

I suspect the situation is worse than represented for both parties. There is always a strong disinclination to admit it when you are wrong, as evidenced by some of these comments.
I think many voters feel a commonality with Diogenes effort to find an honest man, so it is a rather ancient problem, and certainly pointless today to search in Washington DC.
No matter the party affiliation, I will always vote for the less stupid candidate. When both are stupid I will vote for the lesser spender. When both are spendthrifts, I will stay home and tend my garden.

sleepyhead on January 8, 2014 at 11:17 AM

There is no real conservative party. The two that exist are liberal and progressive. Neither represent my views.

sadatoni on January 8, 2014 at 11:16 AM

Yeah. Obama uses the IRS like a cudgel against political opponents. Chris Christie closes off lanes to punish Dem mayors who don’t endorse “Mr. Bipartisan” Not a bit of difference between the thuggery involved.

Happy Nomad on January 8, 2014 at 11:19 AM

The party labels are becoming obsolete.You are either a liberal, a conservative,a RINO(liberal with no gonads),or a typical ignorant American voter who casts a ballot based on some emotional reaction to the latest mainstream media headline prompts them to do.It has gotten pretty bad when even “uncool” conservatives shun the GOP label!

redware on January 8, 2014 at 11:19 AM

Neither party has covered itself in glory recently. Many people I know have said “a pox on both your houses” and re-registered as independents. Democrats are disgusted with the tactics of Harry Reid and the incompetence of the Obama administration. Republicans are disgusted with the zig-zagging of the Congressional GOP between the Tea Party and the Democrats – most would like to see the Party settle in with a coherent set of moderately conservative policies and stick with them for a while, as it did in 2009-10 when it won the House majority.

rockmom on January 8, 2014 at 11:23 AM

They’re not yet over but the two parties have little diff. btw. them.

They scroom and rob you royally.

Schadenfreude on January 8, 2014 at 11:25 AM

More conservative whining. Start your own party already, will ya?

BOTH parties have moved to the extremes. Even though the TruCons grouse that the so-called establishment dismisses them–and the truth is, unless the R’s go full-out whackadoodle right, the base will never be happy with the Party–the country at large has long perceived the Republicans as being too beholden to the far right. As the country has become more secular, the Christian right has really dug R’s into a hole on social issues.

Meanwhile the Dems appeared rational by comparison due to Clinton’s more practical–many might say self-serving–center-left approach. Now voters are beginning to reluctantly acknowledge that Obama has moved the Dems too far to the left.

The bases are becoming more ideological, driving voters to shun affiliation with either party. Simple as that.

Meredith on January 8, 2014 at 11:26 AM

I despise Cantor, Boehner, McConnell more than Reid, Pelosi, obama.

It’s hard to fathom, but I arrived at this stage after many impertinent displays from the stupid and fake Rs.

The former enable the latter; thus, they are more devastating to the land and the children.

Schadenfreude on January 8, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Out with both!

Schadenfreude on January 8, 2014 at 11:27 AM

Commies and RINO squishes have ruined the land and the kids’ future.

Blame yourselves. Commies and squishes brung/kept obama and the cabal from the right.

Schadenfreude on January 8, 2014 at 11:28 AM

Their philosophy during elections are different, but their voting records are pretty close.

portlandon on January 8, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Meaning only that they lie to the voters are good as does obama.

Schadenfreude on January 8, 2014 at 11:30 AM

I’m an Indy, after being a Democrat for years.

The real fight, to me, is progressivism versus liberty. Neither party really tips in favor of liberty in their actions. Words, yes, but not actions.

PattyJ on January 8, 2014 at 11:31 AM

There aren’t any surprises here. Both parties have done a bang up job of pissing off both their base and their opposition. I wouldn’t dare draw any conclusions, though. 2012 taught us that voters can be manipulated or bought with ease, and that the Dems are just plain better at it.

ElectricPhase on January 8, 2014 at 11:35 AM

There are two parties, and yet the country has a 30/30/30/10 split, which is D/R/I/O (Independent and Other) that requires the two parties to try and divide I and O so as to get majorities, with the D having been more capable at adding by division of the electorate.

The electorate as a whole is, at best, nearly evenly split between those who vote and those who do not. When it is complained that 52% got Obama elected, it is 52% of 50%, or 26% of the adult population available who can vote. Minority based government based on division gets factionalized in-fighting for the spoils of the majority, that 50% that doesn’t vote, plus those who lost in what are actually razor thing margins although they appear ‘large’ because we only consider those who vote in elections.

If we considered all available adults as the full percentage of the vote, then there has been no legitimate government in the US for decades, and you might have to go back to the immediate post-WWII decades to find those times.

To ‘win’ and take power a party must subtract from the non-voters and add those new voters to the voting base and take a larger percentage than those seeking to divide the electorate take. Division is to be cancelled out by outreach, demonstration that a single vote has meaning and worth even if only moral worth to the individual, and that by leaving the ranks of the truly disaffected can they have more of a say in their lives. It is that very meme, that Big Government is beyond the power of the individual, that has been drummed into our Nation to divide the people.

Currently we flounder as a Nation because of the division for addition practiced in part by both parties. That is the Nation as spoils for the political elite and it is the destruction of our economy and our liberty if a means to add by subtraction is not found in the near future. Otherwise when that 50% of the disaffected reaches more than just majority, but creates a minority of all aspects of government, the system will change to suit that part of the population: it will get the government it deserves. And do remember that the NSDAP came to power with only 36% net percent of the population voting for it with 88% attendance at elections. We cannot even reach that low-light of ‘legitimacy’ for government. And where that leads is not good for any of us.

ajacksonian on January 8, 2014 at 11:37 AM

The real fight, to me, is progressivism versus liberty. Neither party really tips in favor of liberty in their actions. Words, yes, but not actions.

PattyJ on January 8, 2014 at 11:31 AM

Make sure that you don’t take the leftists for “progressives”. They have regressed for at least 50 years. See the Johnson pipe-dream. They created millions more sheepleton, on the dole, in modern day plantations. That’s not “progressive”, nor “liberal”.

The true liberals and progressives are not the Ds, nor the RINOs. They equally keep the fools in squaller, dependency, for votes and royal lavish lives, even if in the minority party in DC.

Meanwhile they both hurl insults at the taxpayers and principled constitutionalists.

Ex. obama will waste 600 million on ads at the winter Olympics in Russsia…to promote obama’care’. When asked what they will cost, the marketing agency of the ads, friends of obama, said “we can’t tell you”.

Transparency and respect for the taxpayers, dead. Say to the IRS next time “I can’t tell you how much I earned”.

Schadenfreude on January 8, 2014 at 11:38 AM

How anyone can call themselves an Indy and vote for obama is totally incomprehensible.

Schadenfreude on January 8, 2014 at 11:41 AM

The real fight, to me, is progressivism versus liberty. Neither party really tips in favor of liberty in their actions. Words, yes, but not actions.

PattyJ on January 8, 2014 at 11:31 AM

Also, make sure that you don’t take the RINOs for “progressives”. See Snowden.

Many on the so-called right no longer deserve to live free either. They are similar plantation-sheepleton, from different angles.

Schadenfreude on January 8, 2014 at 11:42 AM

The democrats are just better liars and their voting block more full of LIV than the GOP.

Our politicians on both sides have failed the character test. Oh well, we are broke and soon will have no money with which to hand out goodies. That will be tough for DC to fathom.

Zomcon JEM on January 8, 2014 at 11:45 AM

Don’t forget, the Dems still have the DP they can count on in a close election. Oh, DP means dead people.

iamsaved on January 8, 2014 at 11:48 AM

The Ds hand out goodies, stealing from the producers.

The Rs let them run all over them, not caring to be in the minority. Life is as good there, if not better.

Schadenfreude on January 8, 2014 at 11:50 AM

I know that some become independents because their party isn’t right enough for them, some because it isn’t left enough, some because they have their own carefully-thought-out mix of political philosophy. But my impression is that most call themselves “independents” these days simply because they are politically disengaged and don’t really want to take the trouble to think things through. That concerns me, because it’s those types who vote based on things like “hipness,” cool logos, stopping the rise of the oceans and the crease in someone’s pant.

SacredFire on January 8, 2014 at 11:55 AM

…what everybody else said!…that’s what I say!

KOOLAID2 on January 8, 2014 at 12:04 PM

I know that some become independents because their party isn’t right enough for them, some because it isn’t left enough, some because they have their own carefully-thought-out mix of political philosophy. But my impression is that most call themselves “independents” these days simply because they are politically disengaged and don’t really want to take the trouble to think things through. That concerns me, because it’s those types who vote based on things like “hipness,” cool logos, stopping the rise of the oceans and the crease in someone’s pant.

SacredFire on January 8, 2014 at 11:55 AM

Excellent observation! I find that many independents just don’t like conflict so they avoid the whole thing and claim to be “middle of the road” or “liberal on social issues and conservative on economic issues” (rarely the other way around). I don’t find that many mushy moderates have much courage or convictions. As Rush is so fond of pointing out, there are no Great Independents in history.

rhombus on January 8, 2014 at 12:11 PM

Why might that be? In 2007, widespread dissatisfaction about the aggressive foreign policy of George Bush probably pushed the more libertarian and/or isolationist Republicans out of the fold.

LoL

Only a RINO would use the left’s complaint.

It was illegal immigration that cracked the Republican party starting in 2007.

jaime on January 8, 2014 at 12:17 PM

What the media will never report is that a lot of Independents are Tea Party and plain old conservatives. I no longer consider myself a Republican because the GOPe is no one I want to associate myself with. If a Reagan came along he could win the Presidency but the MSM is in business to make sure that idea is suppressed.

neyney on January 8, 2014 at 12:21 PM

How strange that even with me not having read Winos statement we echo each other almost verbatim. There is a change in the electorate on the right. The RINOs are stupid to ignore the coming storm.

neyney on January 8, 2014 at 12:24 PM

There are two parties, and yet the country has a 30/30/30/10 split, which is D/R/I/O (Independent and Other) that requires the two parties to try and divide I and O so as to get majorities…

ajacksonian on January 8, 2014 at 11:37 AM

And with help from the LSM tossing out squirrels, the dividing works.

If I and O could prioritize and put aside respective sacred cows for a bit, maybe they could unite long enough to resist division and save this country from its death spiral. But the second I say that, I’m labeled a moderate.

We are stuck.

Tsar of Earth on January 8, 2014 at 12:32 PM

as a Indy … I got tired of voting for Dem lite ….
and this cuts down on the junk mail also ….

in the primary I vote for the weakest Dem …

in the General tend to vote R ….

(in NC indies can vote either primary ..)

in my area ( a very blue area) usually only 1 republican is running
and 5 or 6 dems are running per seat.

now for sheriff I vote for the Dem … he has been sheriff for the 20 years
I have been here and done a good job … and I support him …

conservative tarheel on January 8, 2014 at 12:36 PM

Yep, more conservatives becoming independents and leaving the Republican party.

22044 on January 8, 2014 at 10:42 AM

I became an independent during the Romney campaign. I ended up voting for him, but I will only vote for conservatives going forward. I could care less about party affiliation after what I’ve seen the Republicans do after conservatives gave them the majority in 2010.

lea on January 8, 2014 at 12:50 PM

neyney on January 8, 2014 at 12:24 PM

They are self righteous to the point of stupidity.

Cindy Munford on January 8, 2014 at 12:57 PM

The differences between the parties voting records are not that far apart.
Their philosophy during elections are different, but their voting records are pretty close.
portlandon on January 8, 2014 at 11:00 AM

This.

Most people never see it when they’re being used for electoral purposes only though, too many buy the charade. They THINK they’re doing something different. THINK they’re trying to fix things. Yet end up voting for the same things with a different name.

Where they’ll defend them for years.

Until the parties change again.

Then they hate it again.

Just like they’re sold.

It’s absolute genius really. And a triumph of understanding social psychology. American politics are a pressure relief valve. And it perpetuates on building, then releasing the pressure, to different segments of the population in turn, to keep us drawn in, partaking, and keeping them around.

Parties are a bad idea.

Genuine on January 8, 2014 at 1:44 PM

Look, only three things are certain…

1) Death.
2) Taxes.
3) Republican leaders will backstab conservatives.

I wonder why the Republican Party has suffered by losing membership to Independents? (Hint: Look at #3 above!)

dominigan on January 8, 2014 at 1:54 PM

I left the Republicans over the expansion of Medicaid and shamnesty.

John the Libertarian on January 8, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Democrats are disgusted with the tactics of Harry Reid and the incompetence of the Obama administration. ….

rockmom on January 8, 2014 at 11:23 AM

With all due respect, I have not seen any disgust on the Democrat side. They vote as they are told, they argue in lockstep with the latest decrees from on high, and exposure to anyone to the right of Trotsky is considered contaminating.

Here in Colorado, a Democrat State Senator [Aguilar D-Denver] just fired one of her newly hired paid aides. The aide had sat next to a friend from when they were both unpaid interns last year, at one of this new legislative session orientation meetings. The friend had been hired by a Republican, and sitting next to her was considered disloyalty.

Subotai Bahadur on January 8, 2014 at 2:30 PM

I’m one of the independents who moved away from the GOP. I got sick of them crapping all over the TEA party and demanding our votes. Then when the country club GOPers lost in primary they would flip and support the Dem candidate.

I quit donating to them and dropped my party affiliation. Up until a year ago I had been a Republican since affiliating in my college days.

batter on January 8, 2014 at 2:48 PM

PS. Yeah, the whole shamnesty mess (both of them – 2007 & 2013) also played a big role in my departure as well.

batter on January 8, 2014 at 2:50 PM

Oh I agree, S, that progressives are regressives. They are just royalists really. Old ideas, new name.

PattyJ on January 8, 2014 at 2:54 PM

They’re not really independents, they just don’t want to be bothered. Plenty people need their carpets cleaned, they just don’t want you calling them up and bugging them about it.

rik on January 8, 2014 at 3:11 PM

Yep, more conservatives becoming independents and leaving the Republican party.

22044 on January 8, 2014 at 10:42 AM

Yep.

I wish the TEA Party would become a full 3rd party.

KMC1 on January 8, 2014 at 4:31 PM

Hard to tell sometimes just what it is the Republican party stands for anymore. Oh wait, I know…it’s themselves, just like the dems.

scalleywag on January 8, 2014 at 4:41 PM

We don’t register in Texas but if we had to no way I’d register GOP and certainly not Dem. I used to think the GOP at least had a notion of fiscal sanity and I typically swallowed the rhetoric but all that changed during Bush’s second term.

Nobody seems to give a sh!t about the burden of debt anymore so I’m a man without a party. Who cares about social issues when you can’t even service the cost of the past?

DanMan on January 8, 2014 at 5:57 PM

Republican identification fell to 25%, the lowest over that time span (25 years).

As soon as the Republicans get rid of the Conservative and TEA Party folks they’ll have a big empty tent to entice the “moderates” and right wing wing Democrats into becoming Republicans and a sure mid term election victory in November!!!

RJL on January 8, 2014 at 8:45 PM

Libertarian is the way I’m voting from here on out. I hope the GOP sinks away to the abyss. Hopefully another Ron Paul emerges. I was proud to “throw my vote away” on him the last round.

air_up_there on January 8, 2014 at 10:14 PM

I usually enthusiastically participate in any political poll that blows up my phone, but the past several years, I won’t let them dump me into the “Independent” group anymore.

I’m not an Independent, I’m a Libertarian, and unless they count me as such, I decline to participate in the poll anymore (and I used to be a pollster decades ago in another life, so I know how it works… just because they don’t speak the choice, doesn’t mean you can’t choose something different, most of the time. the spoken/unspoken choices is one way the client can skew the poll towards the choices they want)

I would recommend to everyone that isn’t a Democrat or a Republican, but aren’t an Independent either, to stop letting them throw you in with the Independents, and if they aren’t willing to count your party properly, politely inform them that you are unable to honestly complete their poll, have a good evening, and hang up.

This is the only way to get an honest accounting of just where our affiliations really sit in these polls.

We either get counted proper, or we’ll drive up their margin-for-error rate (which no polling firm wants).

Their choice.

– Smoov

Smoovious on January 9, 2014 at 5:35 PM