In Gallup polling throughout the first quarter of 2021, an average of 49% of U.S. adults identified with the Democratic Party or said they are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party. That compares with 40% who identified as Republicans or Republican leaners. The nine-percentage-point Democratic advantage is the largest Gallup has measured since the fourth quarter of 2012. In recent years, Democratic advantages have typically been between four and six percentage pointsThe key word there is "lean."
.The 44% of Americans who identify as political independents, whether they subsequently express a party leaning or not, is up from 38% in the fourth quarter of 2020 and is above 40% for the first time since 2019. This is consistent with the historical pattern whereby independent identification typically declines in presidential election years and increases in odd-numbered years.
However, the percentages identifying as independent in 2020 and thus far in 2021 have been unusually high compared with prior presidential election and odd-numbered years. Thus, the current level of independent identification ranks among the highest Gallup has measured in any quarter since 1988, with the high being 46% in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Increased independent identification has mostly come at the expense of the Republican Party, with the 25% of U.S. adults currently identifying as Republicans down from 29% in the fourth quarter. Republican Party identification has not been lower since early 2018 and is just a few points above the low of 22% in the Gallup telephone polling era, registered in the fourth quarter of 2013. During that quarter, GOP favorability sank to a record low during a federal government shutdown over disputes about the Affordable Care Act.
Democratic Party identification is also down, by one point from the fourth quarter, to 30%. It has hovered around that level for most of the past eight years.