As the 2012 presidential election approaches, the partisan affiliations of the electorate have shifted significantly since 2008. In surveys conducted in 2011 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 34% of registered voters described themselves as Democrats, down four points compared with 2008 (38%). Over the same period, the percentage of voters describing themselves as Republicans has held steady at 28%, while the total saying they are politically independent or have no partisan preference has risen four points (from 34% in 2008 to 38% in 2011).
The Democrats’ decline is especially apparent when the partisan leanings of independents are taken into account. Though there has been no change in the share of the electorate identifying with the GOP, there has been a significant increase in the number of Republican-leaning independents (from 11% in 2008 to 16% in 2011). Taken together, the share of voters who say they are Republican or that they lean toward the GOP has grown from 39% in 2008 to 43% in 2011, while the number saying they identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party has declined from 51% to 48%. A 12-point Democratic advantage in 2008 has shrunk to just five points heading into the 2012 presidential election year. This marks a continuation of a trend first observed in 2010, when 43% of the electorate supported or leaned toward the GOP while 47% favored the Democratic Party.
A new analysis shows that the share of voters identifying with or leaning toward the GOP has either grown or held steady in every major religious group. This includes both religious groups that are part of the GOP’s traditional constituency as well as some groups that have tended to be more aligned with the Democratic Party, including Jewish voters. In general, the pattern among religious groups mirrors that among the electorate as a whole; the number of voters who identify as a Democrat has declined, while the number saying they lean toward the GOP has risen.
Read the full report, Trends in Party Identification of Religious Groups, on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.