Americans Reject Republicans and Democrats in Record Numbers
Half of Americans reject both Republicans and Democrats. Recent polling from Gallup finds 50 percent of respondents identifying as independents, rather than aligning themselves with either Democrats or the GOP.
Gallup’s latest political identification poll, conducted January 20 through February 2, saw just 25 percent of respondents identifying as Democrats and 25 percent identifying as Republicans. Among independents, 41 percent said they lean more Republican and 50 percent said they lean more Democrat. This is quite a change from November 2020 (when the Democrat/Republican/Independent divide was 31 percent, 30 percent, and 38 percent), and from February 2020 (when it was 26 percent, 33 percent, 39 percent). Gallup has been asking this same question myriad times per year since 2004. Party identification numbers tend to fluctuate quite a bit between surveys, but Gallup reports this is the first time the share of independents has reached 50 percent.
In addition, more poll respondents than ever before—62 percent—say that Republicans and Democrats “do such a poor job representing the American people that a third party is needed.” Agreement with this statement is up from 57 percent in September 2020, and a previous record high of 61 percent in 2017.
The first time Gallup asked the question, back in October 2003, only 40 percent agreed. “In several election years—2006, 2008 and 2012—Americans were divided as to whether a third party was needed, but since 2012, Americans have consistently favored the idea,” notes Gallup.
The results should give both parties and their members pause, but belonging to one of America’s two ruling tribes seems to mean never having to engage in self-reflection. Why should they? In cities and states across the U.S., professional Democrats and Republicans have successfully worked the system to keep third parties off ballots and out of office, while fighting electoral innovations—like ranked choice voting—that allow people to vote their actual preferences rather than simply pick the proverbial lesser of two evils.
And when legal machinations fail, the two parties resort to shaming: Don’t third-party voters know they’re destroying democracy?
That attitude is on full display in some reactions to the recent Gallup polling results. Take Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and political science lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, who shared the poll results yesterday with a warning that “this disaffiliation from the two major parties is very dangerous for democracy.”
People labeling themselves and voting according to their own preferences and beliefs instead of whatever hogwash they’ve been force-fed is not dangerous to democracy—many functional democracies in the world have third and fourth and fifth parties, who govern in coalitions thanks to proportional representation. But this disaffiliation trend is dangerous to establishment politicians and staid political institutions who think they’re too big to fail and thus immune from having to actually act like democratic leaders. To which I say:
And according to Gallup, a whole lot of Americans feel similarly.
A picture is worth… After
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