Gallup polling for the first three months of 2021 shows that 49% of the public identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaners, while just 40% call themselves Republicans or say they lean toward the GOP.
That’s the largest gap between Democrats and Republicans in Gallup’s quarterly study of party identification in nearly a decade. The last time Democrats had a larger lead on party ID was early 2009.
Now, that piece of data — in and of itself — is not disastrous for Republicans. After all, Democrats typically enjoy a low- to mid-single-digit edge on party ID. As Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones notes:
“Republican advantages have generally been rare and short-lived, but occurred when Americans rallied around incumbent Republican presidents George H.W. Bush after the 1991 U.S. victory in the Gulf War and George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The GOP also had brief leads in party affiliation in the periods surrounding Republican electoral successes in the 1994, 2010 and 2014 midterm elections.”
But it’s not just the party ID gap that stands out in Gallup’s first-quarter polling. It’s this: Just 25% of the public calls themselves Republicans — close to the lowest (22%) that Gallup has ever measured since it started doing telephone-based polling. (Another 15% say they lean to Republicans.)
When you combine those two data points, you get this: Not many people want to be a Republican at the moment. The party’s brand is quite clearly damaged after four years of Donald Trump seeking to break every political norm possible.
The Point: Smart GOP strategists look at these numbers and know the best strategy is to immediately start charting a course away from Trump. The problem? The party base still loves the former President — and has no plans on abandoning him.