Republican Voters Shed Party Colors Following Capitol Attack, Coronavirus Chaos

A new Gallup poll suggests Republican voters are shedding their party affiliation in the aftermath of President Joe Biden's inauguration and amid the toxic fallout of former President Donald Trump's term.

Gallup's quarterly report on party identification among American voters found the biggest gap between Democrats and Republicans since 2012, as the GOP grappled with the January 6 attack on the Capitol, the influence of anti-democratic conspiracy theories and a series of political setbacks in Washington, D.C.

Gallup polled a nationally representative sample of 3,960 adults in telephone interviews between January and March, as Biden embarked on his drive to suppress the coronavirus pandemic and encourage unity in America's bitterly divided political sphere. The sample's margin of error was 2 percentage points.

Gallup found that an average of 49 percent of respondents aligned themselves with the Democratic Party or defined as independents who lean towards the party. Meanwhile, 40 percent of respondents identified as Republican or Republican-leaning. The nine point gap represents the largest gulf since the end of 2012 after President Barack Obama's second electoral victory.

Gallup said recent years have seen a Democratic advantage of somewhere between four and six percentage points, meaning more Republicans are disavowing the party in the aftermath of Trump's electoral loss, his doomed efforts to retain power, and the storming of the Capitol by his supporters on January 6.

Overall, 30 percent of respondents said they were Democrats, versus 25 percent Republican. Another 19 said they were Democratic-leaning, with 15 percent Republican-leaning.

More respondents have generally identified as Democratic in Gallup polls since 1991. Republicans have only out-reported Democrats for brief periods in 1991 after the Gulf War, immediately after the 9/11 attacks, and following GOP electoral successes in the 1994, 2010 and 2014 midterms.

The widening gulf in party pride comes as Biden chalks up successes in America's coronavirus vaccine rollout and stimulus plan, both of which are broadly popular with Americans of all political persuasions.

The new president inherited a chaotic pandemic response plan—according to the new administration there was no plan at all—hamstrung by partisan politics and Trump's own misleading medical advice.

More than 555,000 people have so far died from the virus, though the below infographic from Statista shows that nationwide deaths are at a six-month low. Infection rates are again rising across the country, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that 108.3 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine, including about 63 million people who have been fully vaccinated.

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Polls show that Americans are increasingly confident about returning to pre-pandemic life, and are less worried than before about catching the virus. Biden has said he hopes Americans can gather together to celebrate July 4, urging national unity to help achieve the goal.

But his appeal to cooperation appears to have fallen on deaf ears on Capitol Hill, where Republicans refused to back the president's coronavirus relief package and are gearing up to fight his proposed mammoth infrastructure bill while backing new legislation restricting voting rights in some states.

The number of respondents identifying as independents jumped from 38 percent at the end of 2020 to 44 percent in the latest Gallup poll, reflecting a historical pattern of increasing independent identification during non-election years. Still, the 44 percent is among the highest ever recorded by Gallup. The highest ever was 46 percent at the end of 2013.

Former or shy Republicans account for most of the shift, GOP identification coming in at the lowest level since early 2018 and only just above the lowest ever recorded in the telephone polling era of 22 percent at the end of 2013. That figure came as the government grappled with a costly federal shutdown amid wrangling over the Affordable Care Act.

GOP elephant necklace at 2008 RNC
This file photo shows a woman wearing a Republican Party elephant necklace at the Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center on September 3, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images