Politico has a good look at the latest Gallup survey on party preference which should have the establishment on both sides of the aisle worried. The news is particularly bad for the Democrats, who lost ground in 2015 and hit a near historic low water mark.
The share of Americans identifying as a Democrat dropped to a record low in 2015, according to the latest Gallup results published Monday, in the latest indication that Americans’ attachment to either political party is at or nearing historical lows.
Overall, 42 percent over the course of the last year identified as independents, a slight drop from the 43 percent who identified as such in 2014. While Democrats maintained a small advantage over Republicans — 29 percent to 26 percent — the Democratic share is at its lowest in Gallup history.
As you scroll through the numbers you’ll find that the GOP has no reason to celebrate either, because while the Democrats seem to be sinking, they still haven’t caught up to the fading fortunes of the Republican Party. But the difference at this point is so small as to be statistically insignificant. So what gives?
There were plenty of clues out there to be observed well before Gallup ran this survey. We’re living in the era of anti-establishment politics. That seems to be the most evident and vocal on the GOP side, but the Democrats are experiencing the same sort of malaise for their traditional machine organization. Donald Trump (and to a slightly lesser extent, Ted Cruz) may be the face of “screw the GOP!” but let’s not forget that Bernie Sanders is a similar symptom for the Democrats. Two new polls in just the last 24 hours are showing Sanders in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire. As I’ve said here repeatedly, that probably won’t translate into Bernie winning the nomination once the race moves out of New Hampshire, but it’s clearly an early warning sign showing at least some level of frustration with the DNC and the way things are supposed to work.
Before Sanders there was Elizabeth Warren, who very well might be kicking herself for deciding she she couldn’t run against Hillary. Her popularity in her own party is light years ahead of Clinton’s and Bernie seems to be in a constant race to see how many of her positions he can emulate. If we want one additional example it might be even more instructive to look at the chairs of the national parties. Even though some of our readers may have expressed some frustrations with Reince Priebus, at least you haven’t mounted a national petition drive to force him to resign as some Democrats have done with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
I used to think that the rising percentage of registered independents (now at 42 and steadily approaching majority status) was a reflection of Americans rejecting the idea that there needed to be a unified platform for the two “sides” which would serve as the home bases for a pair of warring camps. For some of them that may still be true, but recent events have me thinking that a significant slice of the independent pie is comprised of people who probably would have been a registered member of one party or the other if they weren’t so completely convinced that their party stinks on ice. That doesn’t mean that they suddenly believe in all the core principles of the opposing team… just that their side needs to fire their coaches before they consider coming back home.