Democratic Edge in Partisanship in 2006 Evident at National, State Levels

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Utah and Idaho most Republican states, Rhode Island and Vermont most Democratic

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A review of Gallup polling data from 2006 underscores the relative strength the Democratic Party currently enjoys versus the Republican Party in American politics. For the year, Democrats averaged a nearly four point advantage over the Republicans on national party identification and an even larger 10-point advantage when independents' partisan "leanings" are taken into account. In an analysis of 2006 partisanship at the state level, 33 states show a statistically significant advantage in favor of the Democratic Party, six states show a statistically significant Republican advantage, and the remainder can be considered competitive. Democratic strength in the United States has grown in each of the last three years. The trends are fueled more by movement away from the Republican Party and into independent status than by movement toward the Democratic Party.

National Partisanship in 2006

An average of all national Gallup polling in 2006, consisting of interviews with more than 30,000 adult Americans, finds 34% of Americans identifying as Democrats, 30% as Republicans, and 34% as independents. The parties had been relatively even in terms of national strength since 2001. The most recent figures represent the largest Democratic advantage since the Clinton presidency.

Yearly Averages in National Party Identification
Gallup Polls, 1988-2006

Year

Democrat

Independent

Republican

Dem.-Rep.
Adv

%

%

%

 

2006

34.3

33.9

30.4

3.9

2005

33.2

32.5

32.8

0.4

2004

33.6

31.2

34.2

-0.6

2003

30.5

36.1

32.4

-1.9

2002

32.1

34.1

33.0

-0.9

2001

32.9

34.9

32.1

0.8

2000

34.0

35.4

30.4

3.6

1999

33.5

38.5

28.1

5.4

1998

34.5

36.9

28.6

5.8

1997

34.4

37.1

28.5

5.9

1996

34.1

35.5

30.4

3.6

1995

30.8

39.1

30.1

0.7

1994

32.4

37.6

30.1

2.4

1993

34.0

37.6

28.6

5.4

1992

34.3

36.7

29.1

5.2

1991

30.9

36.2

33.2

-2.3

1990

34.5

32.9

32.8

1.8

1989

34.8

32.7

32.6

2.3

1988

35.6

33.3

30.9

4.8

The increasing Democratic advantage is mainly due to declining Republican identification, rather than increasing Democratic identification. From 2004-2006, Republican identification declined from 34% to 30%, while Democratic identification increased by less than a percentage point (33.6% to 34.3%). During the last three years, the percentage of Americans identifying as independents increased from 31% to 34%.

The Democrats' advantage expands when taking into account the "leanings" of independents. In 2006, 50% of Americans identified as Democrats or were independents who said they leaned toward the Democratic Party. Forty percent identified as Republicans or leaned to the Republican Party. That 10-point advantage more than doubled the Democrats' 4-point advantage in 2005, and is the largest gap Gallup has measured in any year for either party since it regularly began tracking leaned party identification in 1991. This is the first time since 1991 that a party's support reached the 50% level.

Yearly Averages in National Leaned Party Identification
Gallup Polls, 1991-2006

Year

Democrat + lean

Republican + lean

Dem.-Rep.
Adv

%

%

 

2006

50.4

40.2

10.2

2005

47.7

43.2

4.4

2004

47.9

45.2

2.7

2003

45.1

45.2

-0.1

2002

44.7

45.1

-0.4

2001

45.4

44.1

1.3

2000

46.9

42.4

4.5

1999

48.2

41.0

7.2

1998

48.7

40.8

7.9

1997

49.2

40.1

9.1

1996

49.0

41.9

7.1

1995

45.5

44.3

1.2

1994

46.4

44.3

2.1

1993

48.4

41.1

7.3

1992

49.4

41.5

7.9

1991

43.9

47.8

-3.9

This measure of party affiliation displays more evidence of Democratic "growth." The 50% of Americans who identified or leaned to the Democratic Party in 2006 is about two percentage points higher than what the party averaged in 2004-2005. Meanwhile, Republican strength on this measure has declined five points since 2004.

Democratic strength was strongest in the fourth quarter of 2006, which included the Nov. 7 midterm election that propelled the Democrats to majority party status in both houses of Congress. In the fourth quarter, Democrats had a 6-point advantage over Republicans on standard party identification (35% to 29%) and a 14-point advantage on leaned party identification (52% to 38%). The strong Democratic shift is evident when compared to the third quarter of 2004, for example, when Republicans had a nearly 3-point advantage on standard party identification and were essentially even on leaned party identification.

Party Identification in Recent Quarters
Gallup Polls

Standard Party
Identification

Leaned Party
Identification

Dem.

Ind.

Rep.

D-R
Adv

Dem.

Rep.

D-R
Adv

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

2006-IV

35.0

34.6

28.6

6.4

52.3

38.1

14.2

2006-III

34.9

32.7

31.0

3.9

50.0

40.4

9.6

2006-II

34.7

34.1

30.1

4.6

50.8

40.0

10.8

2006-I

32.5

34.0

31.9

0.6

48.6

42.1

6.5

2005-IV

32.8

33.7

31.9

0.9

48.5

42.0

6.5

2005-III

33.8

33.6

31.1

2.7

48.7

41.8

6.9

2005-II

33.4

32.2

33.1

0.3

47.4

43.2

4.2

2005-I

32.8

30.6

35.3

-2.5

46.1

45.9

0.2

2004-IV

34.2

29.5

35.5

-1.3

47.4

46.2

1.2

2004-III

33.8

28.8

36.4

-2.6

46.9

46.8

0.1

2004-II

34.3

31.4

32.6

1.7

49.1

43.1

6.0

2004-I

31.9

34.9

32.3

-0.4

48.1

44.6

3.5

State Partisanship in 2006

The large amount of polling Gallup conducts each year allows for an analysis of party identification at the state level, although in some of the smaller states sample sizes are limited and the estimates are subject to wide margins of error. This analysis focuses on leaned party identification figures because states vary a great deal in the percentage of residents identifying as independents, making state-to-state comparisons more difficult. Plus, leaned party identification may be more relevant to political outcomes since the United States has a two-party system and it is thus useful to classify independents into one camp or the other.

Based on their 2006 averages in leaned party identification, Gallup classifies 33 states as Democratic in orientation (the state showed a statistically significant advantage in Democratic leaning in 2006) and six as Republican (the state showed a statistically significant advantage in Republican leaning in 2006). The remaining 10 states (including District of Columbia, but not including Alaska and Hawaii since Gallup does not interview in those states) are considered competitive, because the leading party's advantage is within the margin of error for that state's data. The overall results show a net gain of six states for Democrats and a net loss of six for Republicans from 2005. The shift since 2003 has been dramatic, when Republican-leaning states outnumbered Democratic-leaning states 20-14.

Classification of State Partisan Leanings
Based on Gallup Poll Data

Year

Democratic

Competitive*

Republican

%

%

%

2006

33

10

6

2005

27

10

12

2004

21

11

17

2003

14

15

20

2002

15

16

18

1993

27

16

6

*Competitive states are those in which party advantage in state is within the margin of error for the sample size in that state.

With only six states falling into the Republican column in 2006, one may wonder why Democrats did not do even better in the 2006 elections. The measures here only take into account respondents' reported partisan leanings. Differences in turnout by partisan groups and candidate- or campaign-specific factors can offset or overcome basic party leanings in an election. To illustrate the point, Democrats enjoyed strong advantages in party identification in the 1970s and 1980s while Republican candidates won four of the five presidential elections during those decades. Since Republicans usually have an advantage in turnout, everything else being equal they should fare better in the competitive states than Democrats.

A total of 12 states showed movement in their classification between 2005 and 2006. Only one of these states -- Louisiana -- did not move in the Democratic direction, with that state going from a Democratic state in 2005 to a competitive state in 2006. No states moved into the Republican column in 2006, but a total of six states moved out of it to being competitive or Democratic-oriented states. The following table summarizes how the different states have been classified in the years in which Gallup has analyzed state-level partisanship.

Party Advantage in U.S. States
Recent Years

State

1993

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Alabama

Dem.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Comp.

Comp.

Arizona

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Dem.

Arkansas

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

California

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Colorado

Comp.

Rep.

Rep.

Comp.

Comp.

Comp.

Connecticut

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Delaware

Dem.

Comp.

Comp.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

District of Columbia

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Florida

Comp.

Comp.

Comp.

Comp.

Comp.

Dem.

Georgia

Dem.

Comp.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Comp.

Idaho

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Illinois

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Indiana

Comp.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Dem.

Iowa

Dem.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Kansas

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Comp.

Kentucky

Dem.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Louisiana

Dem.

Dem.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

Comp.

Maine

Dem.

Dem.

Comp.

Rep.

Dem.

Dem.

Maryland

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Massachusetts

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Michigan

Dem.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Minnesota

Dem.

Comp.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Mississippi

Comp.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Comp.

Missouri

Dem.

Comp.

Rep.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

Montana

Comp.

Comp.

Comp.

Rep.

Comp.

Comp.

Nebraska

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Nevada

Comp.

Rep.

Comp.

Rep.

Dem.

Dem.

New Hampshire

Comp.

Comp.

Rep.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

New Jersey

Comp.

Dem.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

New Mexico

Comp.

Comp.

Comp.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

New York

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

North Carolina

Dem.

Comp.

Comp.

Comp.

Comp.

Dem.

North Dakota

Comp.

Rep.

Rep.

Comp.

Rep.

Comp.

Ohio

Dem.

Rep.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Oklahoma

Dem.

Comp.

Rep.

Comp.

Comp.

Dem.

Oregon

Comp.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Pennsylvania

Dem.

Dem.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Rhode Island

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

South Carolina

Comp.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

South Dakota

Comp.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Comp.

Comp.

Tennessee

Dem.

Rep.

Rep.

Comp.

Comp.

Comp.

Texas

Dem.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Utah

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Vermont

Comp.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

Comp.

Dem.

Virginia

Comp.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Comp.

Dem.

Washington

Dem.

Dem.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

West Virginia

Dem.

Dem.

Comp.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

Wisconsin

Dem.

Comp.

Comp.

Dem.

Dem.

Dem.

Wyoming

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

Rep.

The following table shows the 2006 party support estimates in the states. States in which Gallup completed fewer than 100 interviews in 2006 are omitted from the table since the estimates have a high degree of error associated with them. The analysis shows that states in New England tend to be the most Democratic, including Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Utah, Idaho, and Nebraska showed the strongest Republican support in 2006. The most competitive states were Colorado, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Alabama.

Partisanship in U.S. States
Gallup Polls, 2006

State

Dem./
Lean Dem.

Ind.
(no lean)

Rep./
Lean Rep.

Dem. -
Rep.

Adv

Class-
ification

%

%

%

 

 

Rhode Island

66

8

26

40

Dem.

Vermont

64

9

27

37

Dem.

Massachusetts

63

8

29

34

Dem.

Connecticut

61

11

29

32

Dem.

Arkansas

60

6

34

26

Dem.

Maine

58

10

32

26

Dem.

New York

58

8

34

24

Dem.

West Virginia

58

8

34

24

Dem.

Maryland

58

7

35

23

Dem.

New Hampshire

55

12

33

22

Dem.

Missouri

55

8

37

18

Dem.

Washington

54

10

36

18

Dem.

Michigan

52

11

37

15

Dem.

Ohio

53

8

39

15

Dem.

New Jersey

52

10

38

14

Dem.

Illinois

52

9

39

13

Dem.

Kentucky

54

6

41

13

Dem.

New Mexico

54

5

41

13

Dem.

Minnesota

53

6

41

12

Dem.

California

51

8

40

11

Dem.

Florida

51

9

40

11

Dem.

Iowa

51

10

40

11

Dem.

North Carolina

52

7

41

11

Dem.

Oregon

49

12

39

10

Dem.

Virginia

51

8

41

10

Dem.

Nevada

48

12

40

8

Dem.

Pennsylvania

50

9

42

8

Dem.

Indiana

49

10

42

7

Dem.

Oklahoma

50

7

43

7

Dem.

Arizona

50

6

44

6

Dem.

Wisconsin

49

9

42

6

Dem.

Montana

47

11

42

5

Comp.

Georgia

48

8

44

4

Comp.

Kansas

48

8

44

4

Comp.

Alabama

49

5

46

3

Comp.

Louisiana

47

10

44

3

Comp.

Tennessee

47

9

44

3

Comp.

Colorado

47

7

46

1

Comp.

Mississippi

44

7

49

-5

Comp.

South Dakota

41

11

48

-7

Comp.

South Carolina

44

6

50

-7

Rep.

Texas

42

8

50

-8

Rep.

Nebraska

37

9

55

-18

Rep.

Idaho

35

11

54

-19

Rep.

Utah

33

6

62

-29

Rep.

*Note: Gallup does not interview in Alaska and Hawaii. Estimates for Delaware (Democratic), North Dakota (competitive), Wyoming (Republican), and District of Columbia (Democratic) are omitted due to small sample sizes.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with randomly selected national samples of adults, aged 18 and older, conducted in 2006, totaling 30,655 interviews. Margins of error vary by state depending on the number of completed interviews. States with 1,000 or more interviews have a maximum margin of sampling error of ±3 percentage points. States with 600 to 999 interviews have a maximum margin of sampling error of ±4 percentage points. States with 400 to 599 interviews have a maximum margin of sampling error of ±5 percentages points. States with fewer than 400 interviews have a maximum margin of sampling error of ±6 percentage points or greater.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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