By Dave Andrusko
The size of the shift is incredible, but Gallup told us yesterday that there has been a 14 point turnaround in party preference from what it was at the beginning of 2021. Ordinarily, self-identified Democrats enjoy a three point margin: 46% to 43% over self-identified Republicans.
“There has been a dramatic shift over the course of 2021, from a nine-percentage-point Democratic advantage in the first quarter to a rare five-point Republican edge in the fourth quarter,” Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones wrote.
At the beginning of the year, 49% self-identified as Democrat (or Democratic-leaning) to 40% for Republicans (or Republican leaning). However, by the final quarter of 2021, “42% were Democrats and Democratic leaners, and 47% were Republicans and Republican leaners”—a 14 point turnabout.
The year 2021 was an eventful one in politics, after a similarly eventful 2020 that also saw major shifts in party preferences. In early 2021, Democratic strength reached levels not seen in nearly a decade. By the third quarter, those Democratic gains evaporated as Biden’s job approval declined. The political winds continued to become more favorable to Republicans in the fourth quarter, giving the GOP an advantage over Democrats larger than any they had achieved in more than 25 years.
Where were the shifts most obvious? Jones writes
“The shifts in party affiliation in each quarter of 2021 were apparent in both the percentage identifying with each party and the percentage of independents leaning to each party, but with more changes among leaners than identifiers.
“Between the first and fourth quarters, the percentage of Democratic identifiers decreased by two points, while the percentage of Democratic-leaning independents dropped five points. Republican identification increased by three points from the beginning to the end of 2021, while Republican leaners increased by four points.”
Ed Morrissey make an important point:
Note well that the hard-core identifiers in both parties haven’t changed much outside the margins of error. The decline for Democrats has been almost entirely in the middle [“leaning Democrat”], and even full-on independents trended down slightly.
Stacy M. Brown reminds us, “These fourth-quarter shifts coincided with strong GOP performances in 2021 elections, including a Republican victory in the Virginia gubernatorial election and a near-upset of the Democratic incumbent governor in New Jersey. Biden won both states by double digits in the 2020 election.”
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