Americans are increasingly declaring their independence from the two major political parties in the era of hyperpartisanship, according to a new Gallup poll, and they’re doing so in record numbers.
The poll found that a record 42% of Americans identify themselves as independents in 2013, up from the 40% in 2012. The figures represent the average for the entire year in which the polling was conducted.
The quarterly numbers found a sharp increase throughout 2013, with 37% identifying themselves as independent. That number rose gradually throughout the year, reaching 46% in the fourth quarter. The government shutdown happened at the beginning of October and the Obamacare meltdown which occurred through out the last three months of the year.
The bad news for Republicans is that fewer Americans are identifying with them. Gallup found that just 25% self-identify as Republicans, down from 34% in 2004 and 29% in 2010, the year that the GOP won 60-plus seats in the House of Representatives. The poll found that those who identify themselves as Democrats remained steady at 31%.
Including independents who lean Republican, the GOP gets 41%, down from 45% in 2011. Democrats attract 47%, which, again, is steady from 2012, but up slightly from a couple years ago.
One thing worth nothing is that conservatives and Tea Party have increasingly declared themselves as a political independents because of their dissatisfaction with the Republican Party. That was a phenomenon that was apparent in 2012 presidential polls.
What the numbers mean for this year’s mid-term election is, obviously, unclear. Republicans had surged in the generic congressional ballot in November and December, but Democrats seem to have made up that lost ground. Gallup says that the rise of independents and Americans’ general distrust of government means that both parties are going to be left to try to figure out how to appeal to voters.
“The increased independence adds a greater level of unpredictability to this year’s congressional midterm elections. Because U.S. voters are less anchored to the parties than ever before, it’s not clear what kind of appeals may be most effective to winning votes,” writes Jeffrey Jones of Gallup. “But with Americans increasingly eschewing party labels for themselves, candidates who are less closely aligned to their party or its prevailing doctrine may benefit.”
The poll of 18,871 adult Americans was conducted throughout 2013. The margin of error is +/- 1%.