Republicans overtook Democrats as the political preferences among Americans over the course of 2021, with the GOP now holding the largest lead in voter preference since 1995, according to a new Gallup poll.
In the Gallup poll released Monday, Republicans saw a dramatic shift of 47-42 lead in voter identification at the end of 2021, compared to the beginning of the year, when Democrats held a 49-40 edge. A lead-in voter preference by Republicans has been a rarity since Gallup first began posing the question to voters in 1991. The last time Republicans saw a lead of this size was at the beginning of 1995, shortly after the party regained control of the House, with a net gain of 54 seats.
Gallup noted in the first quarter of 2021, 49 percent of Americans said they identified as a Democrat or a lean-Democratic independent, while 40 percent said they were a Republican or a lean-Republican independent. The Democratic lead in the first quarter was the largest for the party since the fourth quarter of 2012 when the left also had a nine-point advantage.
However, during the course of 2021, the percentage of those who identified as Democrats began to decrease while more people started to align themselves as Republicans. In the second quarter, the percentage of Americans who identified as Democrats or lean-Democratic independents remained high at 49 percent, while more Americans who said they were Republicans or lean-Republican independents increased three percentage points from 40 percent to 43 percent.
The decrease of those who identified as Democrats faltered in the third quarter, falling four percentage points from 49 percent to 45 percent. Republicans increased their base, gaining one more percentage point from the second quarter to bring them at 44 percent in the third quarter.
By the fourth quarter of 2021, party support flipped as Republicans made gains, with more Americans saying they identified with Republicans compared to Democrats, 47 percent to 42 percent. Those who identified as Democrats in the fourth quarter decreased five percentage points from 45 percent saw in the third quarter to 42 percent. Meanwhile, Republicans continued to increase, gaining a 3 point edge to 47 percent in the fourth quarter from the 44 percent it obtained during the third quarter.
The shift in the political affiliations of Americans coincided with the pattern of former President Trump and President Biden’s popularity throughout 2021, Gallup noted. When Biden entered office in January 2021, the president started his term “enjoying a relatively high” approval rating, which correlates to 49 percent of Americans identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic in the first quarter.
However, by the end of summer, Biden’s approval began to “sag” amid his botched chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, rising inflation, and yet another surge of COVID-19 infections. At the same time as Biden’s ratings began to falter, the third quarter would also see a decline in Democratic identification and leaning by 4 points.
As of Tuesday, RealClearPolitics (RCP) average has Biden facing a 55.8 percent disapproval rating on his job approval.
Comparatively, Trump ended his last month in office in January, with a 34 percent job approval rating, the lowest of his term. Gallup notes Trump’s popularity fell more than 10 points from Election Day 2020 to Jan. 6 Capitol riot attack.
Gallup notes the gains Republicans made in the fourth quarter coincided with the strong GOP performances saw in the off-elections in November, including Republican victory in the Virginia gubernatorial election along with the Commonwealth statewide sweep and the near-upset victory of the Democratic incumbent governor in New Jersey. Biden won both states by double digits in the 2020 election.
Gallup surveyed 12,416 adults living in the U.S. throughout 2021, with the poll having a margin of error of plus or minus one percentage point.