Last week Gallup announced that a record 42% of Americans now self-identify as "Independents" when asked about their political affiliation. That 42% is the highest mark for Independents in the 25 years that Gallup has been tracking these things.
The growth in "Independents" apparently came at the detriment to Republicans; only 25% of Americans identify with the GOP, the lowest mark in 25 years. Democratic Party identification remains unchanged in the past 4 years at 31%. But since we all know that there are very few people who are truly Independents, Gallup clarifies:
Democrats maintain their six-point edge in party identification when independents' "partisan leanings" are taken into account. In addition to the 31% of Americans who identify as Democrats, another 16% initially say they are independents but when probed say they lean to the Democratic Party. An equivalent percentage, 16%, say they are independent but lean to the Republican Party, on top of the 25% of Americans identifying as Republicans. All told, then, 47% of Americans identify as Democrats or lean to the Democratic Party, and 41% identify as Republicans or lean to the Republican Party. [Pols emphasis]
So how does this compare to Colorado? It is impossible to make direct comparisons, of course, without access to Gallup's historical survey data. But we can make our own observations using voter registration data compiled by the Colorado Secretary of State's office…
In the past, we would look at voter registration comparisons and focus primarily on "active" voters as a gauge of where Colorado voters stand. But the definition of the terms "active" and "inactive" voter have become fairly muddled since Republican Scott Gessler assumed the office of Secretary of State in January 2011; indeed, Gessler seems happy only when fewer people are voting in general. So in order to find some sort of balance for comparison, we just decided to add up active and inactive voters from Jan. 2010 and Nov. 2013 (the most current data available) to see how things shake out. Take a gander:
|Total DEM||DEM %||TOTAL GOP||GOP %||TOTAL UA||UA %|
As you can see, the voter registration growth in Colorado has definitely been on the "Unaffiliated" side, with both Democrats and Republicans declining in terms of total percentage of the electorate. It's too early to guess which direction Colorado Unaffiliated voters will be leaning in 2014, but if past history is any indication (and it usually is), Democrats will likely still see some kind of advantage among the total voting populace. The easiest comparison here is to look at the results for President in 2012, when Barack Obama carried Colorado 51-46 over Republican Mitt Romney. Since Colorado voter registration numbers were about equal among Democrats and Republicans in November 2012, Obama almost certainly picked up a good chunk of the so-called Unaffiliated vote in Colorado.
If we give Democrats that 5% from the Obama-Romney race, then you could reasonably argue that Party self-ID in Colorado is 36% Democrat, 31.5% Republican, and 31% Unaffiliated. This is similar to the 6% advantage for Democrats identified in the Gallup national poll.
Yes, we realize all of this is completely unscientific, but without directly-comparable data we think this could provide a reasonable glimpse at how Colorado voters self-identify. Because both the Democratic and Republican Parties are lagging far behind in voter registration numbers compared to Unaffiliated designations, the most important factor here — and in November 2014 — will be related to where those "Unaffiliated" voters actually throw their support.