According to a new Gallup poll more Americans consider themselves Democrats than at any point since October 2009, when asked 45% called themselves Democrats and 39% Republicans.
Gallup didn’t just ask respondents whether they considered themselves to be Democrats or Republicans. They also asked Independents which way they lean. The party identification measure has been trending back towards the Democrats in 2011, but a six point spread the highest since December of 2008 when the margin was 19 points.
The pollster credited Obama’s increased popularity for the swing and pointed to a historical trend to back up their conclusion,
Historical Gallup trends indicate party affiliation often shifts when presidents are very popular or unpopular. For example, Republicans gained an advantage in 1991 after George H.W. Bush’s approval ratings soared during and after the Persian Gulf War. Democrats expanded their advantage in party affiliation in the late 1990s during the latter part of Bill Clinton’s presidency, when the economy was booming and Clinton’s approval ratings routinely topped 60%. Between 2005 and 2008, the Democrats built up a large advantage as George W. Bush’s approval ratings suffered due to the Iraq war and later to record-high gas prices and a poor economy.
I think there is something related, but a bit broader going on here. The 2010 class of GOP governors are some of the most unpopular politicians in the country. Rick Scott in Florida is least popular politician and in America followed by John Kasich of Ohio, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania and Rick Snyder of Michigan. These governors have ignored the will of the people in their states, and embarked on ideologically driven agenda that may have pushed voters back to the Democratic Party.
Polling has revealed that Scott, Walker, and Kasich have all helped Obama improve his approval ratings and or lead ahead of 2012 in their states. The correlation was obvious in Wisconsin and Florida. As the governors’ approval ratings went down in each state, Obama’s went up. When you add in the high disapproval rate of the Republican controlled House, you get an electorate that has quickly soured on the GOP.
Except for the recent ABC News/Washington Post poll which is starting to look like an outlier, Obama’s approval ratings have weathered the storm of bad economic news very well. The killing of Bin Laden helped, but Obama and by extension the Democratic Party have a large asset in the unpopularity of the GOP.
Barack Obama’s best friends in 2012 may be John Boehner, Rick Scott, Scott Walker, Tom Corbett, John Kasich, and Rick Snyder. The extremism of the Republican Party could be making Democrats the new center.
The Republican move to the far right has alienated many American voters. As we inch closer to 2012 things may trending back towards Obama and the Democrats. Nothing has helped this trend more than the Republican support for privatizing Medicare. Their quest to destroy Medicare has given voters a crystal clear reason not to vote Republican.
For a party that has the stated goal of defeating Obama in 2012, the GOP is sure doing their best to get him reelected. The combination of Obama’s personal popularity and the GOP’s enraging of voters may be leading people back to the Democratic Party.