Changes in Party Affiliation Since 2008

The Pew Research Center recently reported on the demographic changes in political party affiliation since 2008. Obama’s approval ratings have decreased drastically since his election, as has the percentage of registered Democrats.

Although the amount of registered Republican voters has remained at 28%, the Democratic Party is losing voters to Independents (now 34%), a higher percentage of which now lean Republican (11% then and 16% now). This is the highest percentage of people identifying as independent since the late 1930s, when party identification was first measured.

The increase in Republican-identified respondents mainly comes from white voters (a 12-point lead in 2011). There has been no change in African American or Hispanic party affiliation—the majority of which continue to identify as Democrats (86% of African Americans, and 64% of Hispanics).

What is surprising is the change in the age of Republican voters. In 2008, democrats held a 28-point lead among young voters, which has fallen to a 13-point lead. Currently, among those born after 1980, the Democratic Party has a 13-point edge on the Republican Party (52% to 39%), down significantly from their 32-point edge three years ago. In 2008, Republicans held a 2-point lead among seniors, which has increased to 12 points.

Also unexpected are the gains made by the GOP among voters with family incomes of less than $75,000 a year. In 2008, Democrats held a 12-point advantage among middle income voters ($30,000 - $74,999), but now just as many identify with the Republican Party as with the Democratic Party. The Republican advantage among whites with a high school education or less has grown from one point in 2008 to 17 points in 2011.

The GOP has also made gains among men, reaching 21 points in 2011, ten points higher than in 2008. They now also have a five-point lead among white women, a stark reversal from the seven-point Democratic lead in 2008.

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