The number of Americans who regard themselves as Republicans surpassed the number of adults who label themselves Democrats in 2021.
In a telephone survey of 12,000 randomly sampled adults, the U.S. Gallup Poll asked respondents if they identify as a Republican, a Democrat, or Independent. Those who labeled themselves as independents are subsequently asked which political party they lean more towards. The combination was used to evaluate which of the parties more Americans identify with.
During the first quarter of 2020, Democrats lead Republicans with 49 percent of adults associating themselves with the party while only 40 percent considered themselves Republicans or Republican-leaning.
The nine-point difference shrunk in the subsequent quarters of the year. During the third quarter, Republicans took a one-point lead over Democrats before closing the year with a five-point lead. The poll found that by the fourth quarter of 2021, 42 percent of adults considered themselves Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents while 47 percent of adults consider themselves Republican or Republican-leaning.
“Shifting party preferences in 2021 are likely tied to changes in popularity of the two men who served as president during the year,” said Gallup in the poll’s analysis. “Republican Donald Trump finished out his single term in January, after being defeated in the 2020 election, with a 34% job approval rating, the lowest of his term.”
The organization attributed Trump’s declining popularity to the COVID-19 pandemic, the president’s attitude toward the legitimacy of the results of the general election, and the security breech at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“Democrat Joe Biden enjoyed relatively high ratings after taking office on Jan. 20, and his approval stayed high through the early summer as COVID-19 infections dramatically decreased after millions of Americans got vaccinated against the disease,” according to the analysis.
Biden’s popularity crashed when “a summer surge of infections tied to the delta variant of the coronavirus made it clear the pandemic was not over in the U.S.” followed by “ the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan” and “rising inflation and yet another surge of COVID-19 infections, tied to the omicron variant of the virus.”
Not only do fewer adults label themselves Democrats, but the number of independents that lean toward the party has steadily declined, falling from 19 percent to 14 percent over the course of last year.
Independents began to increasingly lean toward the Republican Party during 2021, shifting from 15 percent during quarter one to 19 percent during quarter four.
Since Gallup began evaluating party affiliation in 1991, Republicans have only had a five-point advantage during four quarters in total.
On average, 29 percent of Americans identify as Democrats, 27 percent as Republicans, and 42 percent as independents, representing the largest proportion of that nation’s voters.