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Gallup: Independent voters outpace major parties for 5th straight year

in 2017/Top Headlines by

For the fifth year in a row more than 40 percent of Americans say they identify as an independent voter. According to a Gallup poll spanning all of 2015 among more than 12,000 adults, only 29 percent of respondents said they were Democrats while just 26 percent were Republicans.

Independent voters appear split over which party to lean. The Democratic and Republican parties each earned 16 percent favorability from independents who said they leaned toward one party or the other.

That means Democrats’ overall advantage in party politics during 2015 was 3 points ahead of Republicans.

The data shows an interesting trend that could play an important roll in the 2016 presidential election. During the past five years of continued gridlock in Washington, voters appear to have become increasingly put off by party identification. While 2015 didn’t beat out 2014 in number of independents – there were 42 percent in 2015 compared to 2014’s 43 percent – it shows an ongoing pattern.

With Americans steering away from party identification, the presidential election could yield a high number of voters who choose a candidate based on independent values or policies rather than just party loyalty.

Meanwhile, the two parties also have an opportunity to earn back some of that loyalty. Democrats especially appear to have lost some of their voters. The 29 percent figure is a historic low for the party since Gallup began collecting data by phone in 1989.

The party saw a skyrocket of support in 2008 when President Barack Obama was first elected. It was also the final year of George W. Bush’s administration at a time when the former president was suffering from severe disapproval ratings amid the prolonged Iraq war and a crashing economy.

The Gallup polls have shown Republican support has historically struggled to keep pace with Democrats. Only in 1991 did the poll find more Republicans than Democrats. When combining party support and leanings from independents, Republicans have never surpassed Democrats since that year. Four times, in years 2002 and 2003 and 2010 and 2011, Republicans and Democrats have had equal support.

The poll does not contain information about voters’ thoughts toward Republicans as a result of the crowded GOP primary and its king of gaffes, Donald Trump. Recent reports have suggested a Trump nomination could hurt Republicans in down-ballot races.

The Gallop poll has a margin of error of 1 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. The poll sampling used a split of 60 percent cell phone users and 40 percent landlines.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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