More Voters Than Ever Identify as Independents

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A record number of Americans now identify as political independents, according to data compiled by Gallup.

Forty-two percent of those surveyed consider themselves independents, the highest number ever in the quarter-century that Gallup has polled on the topic. And at least 40 percent of Americans have identified as independents for the last three years.

Gallup Senior Editor Jeffrey M. Jones said that because voters are less anchored to a particular party, there is “a greater level of unpredictability to this year's congressional midterm elections.”

This shift has hurt Republicans more than Democrats. Only 25 percent of Americans say they belong to the GOP, an unprecedented low. Republican identification peaked at 34 percent in 2004 following the re-election of President George W. Bush and has declined ever since.

Democratic identification, at 31 percent, has remained stable for the last four years, but it is down from 36 percent in 2008. This year’s annual average ties other low points for the party.

Democrats maintain their edge over Republicans when partisan-leanings are factored in. Forty-seven percent of Americans are Democrats or lean Democrat. Only 41 percent are Republican or lean Republican.

Two possible culprits for the shift away from party identification are the government shutdown in October and the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act in the waning months of 2013. Only 37 percent of Americans identified as independents in the first quarter of 2013, but that number jumped to 46 percent in the fourth quarter.

Jones said the results are based on more than 18,000 interviews from 13 separate surveys conducted throughout the year. 

Adam O'Neal is a political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at aoneal@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearAdam.

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