The analysis of the most recent Gallup Poll by Managing Editor Jeffrey
M. Jones reads like a requiem for the Republican party.
"GOP losses span nearly all demographic groups," said the headline on
the press release May 18. "Only frequent churchgoers show no decline in
support since 2001."
The analysis will be fodder for those commentators who assert
Republicans must radically alter course or face extinction in the Age of
Obama. But the polling data Gallup released doesn't support Mr. Jones'
According to Gallup, only 32 percent of those polled by Gallup May 7-10
identified themselves as Republicans. But that's the highest percentage
since Aug. 18-20 of 2006, when 33 percent said they were Republicans.
And it's a significant increase in a month. In April 6-9, only 24
percent of respondents called themselves Republicans.
In that same poll, only 32 percent of respondents identified themselves
as Democrats. That's exactly the same as Republicans, and represents a
decline of four percentage points from April 20-21, six since Mar 5-8.
Let's reprise. Exactly the same proportion of the electorate in the
most recent Gallup Poll identify themselves as Republicans as identify
themselves as Democrats. This represents in the space of a month a
significant gain for Republicans, and a significant loss for Democrats.
A plurality of voters 34 percent in the most recent poll identify
themselves as independents. In 2006 and 2008, independents broke
heavily for Democrats. If that is still true, then Mr. Jones' focus the
weakness of the GOP would be correct, despite the positive change for
Republicans in partisan identification.
But according to Gallup, it isn't. Gallup asked the independents which
way they "lean." When leaners are included, 45 percent of those polled
favored the Republicans, 45 percent favored the Democrats. Again, dead
even. The last time that happened was in June of 2005.
What are the political implications of a tie? In the Gallup Poll taken
Nov. 7-10, 2004, all respondents, with leaners, showed 48 percent for
Republicans, 48 percent for Democrats. In that election, President Bush
was re-elected. Republicans gained four seats in the Senate to control
that body, 55-45, and won five additional seats in the House, to control
that body, 232-203.
The decline in support for Democrats among independents is more dramatic
than the change in party identification. When leaners were included in
the poll taken April 20-21, all voters favored the Democrats, 50-39. In
the poll taken around election day in 2008, all those surveyed favored
the Democrats, 51-40.
A shift in public sentiment toward the GOP also has been noted by
Rasmussen Reports. A telephone poll released May 12 indicated 40
percent of respondents would vote for a Republican for Congress, 39
percent for a Democrat. This was the third week in a row in which
Republicans led in the generic Congressional ballot.
A serious person analyzing this data would wonder what it is the
Democrats have done to cause so much erosion in their support in so
short a time, especially among independents. But Mr. Jones writes only
of the GOP's alleged troubles. What we are getting from him is not
analysis, but the most egregious form of spin.
This most recent Gallup Poll isn't the only one being spun. We're told
constantly how popular President Obama is. Yet after 100 days, Mr.
Obama, at 63 percent, trailed Jimmy Carter (69 percent), Dwight
Eisenhower (71 percent) and John Kennedy (74 percent), and was
statistically tied with Richard Nixon (62 percent).
The Democrats' dip in popularity has occurred before anything really bad
has happened that can be attributed to them. The economy stinks, but it
was bad when President Obama took office. Republicans think Mr. Obama's
massive spending will lead to stagflation, or worse, and that his
weakness abroad will lead to foreign policy crises. But neither has
materialized yet. If either does, it will cause a decline in popularity
for Democrats even Jeffrey M. Jones will be compelled to notice.