Gallup: Record number of Americans declare independence from political parties


McClatchy Washington Bureau

Americans are turning independent in bigger numbers than ever.

A new Gallup poll, based on more than 18,000 interviews conducted throughout last year, found that 42 percent identified as independents, the highest percentage since such surveys began 25 years ago.

For the past five years, at least 40 percent said they were independent.

"Americans are increasingly declaring independence from the political parties," according to Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones.

"It is not uncommon for the percentage of independents to rise in a non-election year, as 2013 was," it said. "Still, the general trend in recent years, including the 2012 election year, has been toward greater percentages of Americans identifying with neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party, although most still admit to leaning toward one of the parties.

The rise in political independence is likely an outgrowth of Americans' record or near-record negative views of the two major U.S. parties of Congress, and their low level of trust in government more generally."Most seem to have come from the Republican party. Since its peak of 34 percent in 2004, Republican identification has tumbled.

"Not since 1983, when Gallup was still conducting interviews face to face, has a lower percentage of Americans, 24 percent, identified as Republicans than is the case now," the Gallup analysis found. "That year, President Ronald Reagan remained unpopular as the economy struggled to emerge from recession.

"By the following year, amid an improving economy and re-election for the increasingly popular incumbent president, Republican identification jumped to 30 percent, a level generally maintained until 2007."

Democrats, though, have also suffered. From a high of 36 percent in 2008, as President Barack Obama won election, it's now down to 31 percent.


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