A record percentage of Americans (42%) identified as political independents in 2013, according to Gallup.
The percentage is “the highest Gallup has measured since it began conducting interviews by telephone 25 years ago,” and it has “come more at the expense of the Republican Party than the Democratic Party” as more conservatives in recent years have viewed the GOP as being hardly different from establishment Democrats.
Gallup notes that “Republican identification fell to 25%,” which is the lowest in that time span. Many independents are “leaners,” though–16% of independents sided with Democrats and another 16% leaned Republican. Democrats, taking leaners into account, had a six-point party identification advantage over Republicans.
Though “Republican identification peaked at 34% in 2004, the year George W. Bush won a second term in office,” it “has fallen nine percentage points, with most of that decline coming during Bush’s troubled second term” when Bush supported comprehensive amnesty legislation and the Wall Street bailouts that set up the groundwork for what would be the Tea Party movement.
Democrats have not done any better–Gallup found that “Democratic identification has also declined in recent years, falling five points from its recent high of 36% in 2008, the year President Barack Obama was elected. The current 31% of Americans identifying as Democrats matches the lowest annual average in the last 25 years.”
Gallup notes that 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,” and “candidates who are less closely aligned to their party or its prevailing doctrine may benefit.”
A year before House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) survived the greatest party revolt in more than 150 years, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who has always taken on her party’s establishment, said, “If the GOP continues to back away from the planks in our platform, from the principles that built this party of Lincoln and of Reagan, then, yeah, more and more of us are going to start saying, ‘You know, what’s wrong with being independent?’”
Palin said that if the GOP establishment continues to throw conservatives under the bus, “there will be a lot of us who start saying, ‘GOP, if you abandon us, we have nowhere else to go except to become more independent and not enlisted in one or the other private majority parties that rule in our nation.’”
More recently, conservative scholar and talk radio host Mark Levin said he was “one inch” away from leaving the party.
“Do you think you can lie to … conservatives about how you’re going to defund Obamacare, run millions of dollars on ads on that to get re-elected, on how you’re going to fight unconstitutional amnesty?” Levin emphatically declared. “Tooth and nail? You think you can lie to us with impunity? And repeatedly? I don’t care how many millionaires and billionaires you have in your damn back pocket.”
According to Gallup, “the results are based on more than 18,000 interviews with Americans from 13 separate Gallup multiple-day polls conducted in 2013.”