POLL: Both Political Parties Have Major Perception Problems

independentsFULL DISCLOSURE: I am a raging independent.

I don’t recall ever claiming a political party as my own because I enjoy a little investigation prior to important decisions. That’s not to say that some folks aligned with the Democratic or Republican parties do not use their brains during elections and moments of heated discussion, but it’s clear that many prefer perusing marketing collateral, the digital rumor mill, and vitriolic punditry over personal research when choosing the candidate who will win their vote.

As Congress continues to hit all-time approval lows — as dismal as 9 percent in 2013 — Gallup shows that record numbers of Americans are leaving both sides of the aisle and just heading for the rafters with the rest of us used-to-be-cool kids.

Based on Gallup’s most recent release, 42% of Americans identified as political independents in 2013, the highest number since Gallup began conducting interviews by telephone 25 years ago.

In that same timeframe, Republican identification fell to 25% and Democratic identification is unchanged from the last four years at 31%. The results are based on more than 18,000 interviews with Americans from 13 separate Gallup multiple-day polls conducted in 2013.

gallup poll

Americans’ increasing shift to independent status has come more at the expense of the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Republican identification peaked at 34% in 2004, the year George W. Bush won a second term in office.

Since then, it has fallen nine percentage points, with most of that decline coming during Bush’s troubled second term. When he left office, Republican identification was down to 28%. It has declined or stagnated since then, improving only slightly to 29% in 2010, the year Republicans “shellacked” Democrats in the midterm elections.

Network pundits and politico chairs alike can try to spin this until they’re dizzy if they so desire, but numbers are agnostic. They don’t care to lie. We read them and sometimes weep.

Will this trend continue? Will more and more Americans continue to say “a pox on both your houses” while still choosing to vote for one or the other because really, what choice to do we have?