09/27/2006 - Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Republican Party made sharp gains in party affiliation nationally, nearly wiping out the Democrats' long-standing advantage. However, the Republican increases have faded and the Democratic Party now holds a slim edge in overall partisanship among registered voters. The modest Democratic recovery has been mostly concentrated in the blue states that were already firmly in the Democratic camp, and the party has not made inroads in either politically contested swing states or in Republican red states. But the Democrats have gained ground among independent voters, who now lean more Democratic than in 2004.
In nearly 20,000 interviews conducted by the Pew Research Center over the past year, 34.9% of registered voters identify themselves as Democrats, 33.5% as independents, and 31.6% as Republicans. That represents a widening Democratic lead compared with election-year averages in 2004 and 2002, due mostly to a gradual decline in the number of voters who identify themselves as Republicans. However, the Democratic Party's lead remains much smaller than it was in 2000, the final year of Bill Clinton's presidency (36.0% Democrat, 33.3% independent, 30.7% Republican).
More important, while the Democratic Party has widened its lead considerably over the past four years among the group of blue states, it has gained little ground elsewhere. Currently, 39% of registered voters in blue states, taken together, identify themselves as Democrats, compared with 36% as independents, and just 25% as Republicans. In 2002, the GOP had sliced the Democratic in lead in blue states to six points, reflecting the generally favorable climate for Republicans in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
However, the Republicans currently hold a small but consistent edge over the Democrats in political red states (35% Republican, 33% independent, 32% Democrat). And as a group, swing states remain evenly divided politically - 34% identify themselves as Democrats, the same number as Republicans and 32% as independents. In 2000 these states tilted Democratic (35% vs. 32% Republican).
Read the full report Blue States Get Even More Democratic on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.