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It's Official: The Democrats' Party ID Advantage is Back

Last November, Pew issued a large study on "The 2004 Political Landscape", stating, among other things, that the Republicans had reached rough parity with the Democrats on party ID.

At the time, I argued:

...Pew’s figures are based on pooling data over fairly lengthy period to look at, say, “the post 9-11 period”. That’s not a problem if the attitudes in question are stable over the period and it makes theoretical sense that they would be. It is a problem if they’re not and it doesn’t.

That’s what could be happening here. DR has, in fact, noticed larger leads for the Democrats on party ID in recent public polls. A close look at the disaggregated Pew trend data confirms this. Three of the last four Pew polls, including the last two in September and October, give the Democrats a 4 point lead in party ID. That’s very close to the average Democratic lead of 5 points in Pew data covering the entire 1997-2000 time period. Moreover, when you factor in independents who say they lean toward one party or another, the Democratic lead widens to 7 points, because more independents now say they lead toward the Democrats than say they lean toward the Republicans.

If “macropartisanship”–as political scientists call the distribution of party ID among the general public–is returning to what is was before 9-11, that should come as no great surprise. First, other data from Gallup and CBS News showed a pro-Republican surge in party ID after 9-11 that ended much earlier, in fall of 2002. Second, there is a well-known relationship between presidential approval and level of partisan identification with the president’s party–that is, the higher the president’s approval rating, the more people tend to say they identify with that president’s party. Therefore, since Bush enjoyed a huge surge in his approval rating after 9-11 that lasted for an unusually long time, we would expect to see an increase in Republican party ID over that period of high approval ratings–as we did. We would also expect to see that increase melt away over time as Bush’s political advantage from 9-11 decreases and his approval rating falls to undistinguished levels–as we are today.

I am pleased to note that Pew has now issued a short report "Democrats Gain Edge in Party Identification" which completely confirms my analysis. According to the report, Democrats are now averaging a 4 point lead on unleaned party ID in the Pew data (pretty much the same as the Democrats' lead in the last three presidential election years) and a 6 point lead with leaners included. So much for parity.

The Democrats' party image and issue advantages have also improved substantially, as I noted in a recent post.

Recently-released CBS News poll data confirm this trend. The Republican party's net favorability rating is just +2 (49/47), while the Democrats are +14 (54/40).

The parties are rated about equally on "sharing your moral values", and the Republicans have a 11 point advantage on making the right decisions about terrorism. But the Democrats have advantages over the Republicans in all other areas tested by the poll: making prescription drugs for the elderly more affordable (+42); caring about "people like yourself" (+19); creating new jobs (+18); helping more people achieve the American dream (+12); ensuring a strong economy (+6); and more likely to make the right decisions about the war in Iraq (+2).

No wonder party ID isn't at parity.


Interesting that this can be achieved without the Fairness in Media doctrine (killed by Reagen) which allows Fox News, Limbaugh, and their imitators to exist.