Published January 18, 2022
Are Republicans becoming the country’s majority party? Tantalizing new polling data from Gallup suggest they might. It could just be a blip, or it could be an early sign of an upheaval that would transform American politics.
The Democratic Party has held a near-constant lead in partisan affiliation surveys since the end of the Great Depression. That advantage was once huge; Democrats outnumbered Republicans by between 15 and 26 points every year between 1958 and 1980. The lead has narrowed to no more than 10 points in recent years, but the fact remains that Republicans have drawn level with Democrats or surpassed them only a few times since 1932.
That’s what makes the Gallup data so potentially Earth-shattering. Gallup found that partisan identification has shifted by a massive 14 points since early 2021. In the first quarter of 2021, 49 percent of Americans said they were Democrats — defined as solid partisans and Democratic-leaning independents — compared with only 40 percent who said they were Republicans. That lead shrunk in each quarter of the year. By the fourth quarter, the lead shifted to the GOP. As President Biden’s job approval dropped into the low 40s, 47 percent of Americans said they were Republicans compared with 42 percent who said they were Democrats.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.