Record number of Americans identify as independent

A record number of Americans – 42 percent – self-identify as politically independent, according to a new Gallup survey that has measured voter preferences for the last 25 years. The shift has come more at the expense of Republicans than Democrats, and likely coincides with negative views of both political parties and government in general.

Republican identification is down to 25 percent, a record low. It has been declining since peaking at 34 percent in 2004 when President George W. Bush was reelected, though declined to 28 percent by the end of Bush’s term.

Democratic identification is unchanged at 31 percent, which is consistent with the past four years but down from a peak at 36 percent in 2008. It is their lowest annual average in the last 25 years. They also maintain their edge in party identification when the percentage of people who lean toward the Democratic Party are taken into account: 16 percent. The same percentage lean Republican, meaning a total of 47 percent identify or lean toward the Democratic Party, and 41 percent identify or lean toward the Republican Party. Democrats usually hold a party advantage, which has gone as high as 12 points in 2008, and dipped below Republicans for just three years.

The percentage of people identifying as independent climbed to reach a high of 40 percent for the past three years. That number grew over the course of 2013 from 37 percent at the start of the year to 46 percent in the fourth quarter, following a 16-day government shutdown.

The survey was based on landline and cellular telephone interviews from 13 separate Gallup polls of 18,871 adults aged 18 and over living in the U.S. The margin of error is +/- 1 percent.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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