Americans aren’t so smart.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On average, Americans' political party preferences in 2021 looked similar to prior years, with slightly more U.S. adults identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic (46%) than identified as Republicans or leaned Republican (43%).
However, the general stability for the full-year average obscures a dramatic shift over the course of 2021, from a nine-percentage-point Democratic advantage in the first quarter to a rare five-point Republican edge in the fourth quarter.
Line graph. Quarterly averages of U.S. party identification and leaning in 2021. In the first quarter of 2021, 49% of U.S. adults identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic, while 40% identified as Republicans or leaned Republican. In the second quarter, 49% were Democrats or Democratic leaners, and 43% were Republicans and Republican leaners. In the third quarter, 45% were Democrats and Democratic leaners, and were 44% Republicans and Republican leaners. In the fourth quarter, 42% were Democrats and Democratic leaners, and 47% were Republicans and Republican leaners.
These results are based on aggregated data from all U.S. Gallup telephone surveys in 2021, which included interviews with more than 12,000 randomly sampled U.S. adults.
Gallup asks all Americans it interviews whether they identify politically as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent. Independents are then asked whether they lean more toward the Republican or Democratic Party. The combined percentage of party identifiers and leaners gives a measure of the relative strength of the two parties politically.
Both the nine-point Democratic advantage in the first quarter and the five-point Republican edge in the fourth quarter are among the largest Gallup has measured for each party in any quarter since it began regularly measuring party identification and leaning in 1991.
The Democratic lead in the first quarter was the largest for the party since the fourth quarter of 2012, when Democrats also had a nine-point advantage. Democrats held larger, double-digit advantages in isolated quarters between 1992 and 1999 and nearly continuously between mid-2006 and early 2009.
The GOP has held as much as a five-point advantage in a total of only four quarters since 1991. The Republicans last held a five-point advantage in party identification and leaning in early 1995, after winning control of the House of Representatives for the first time since the 1950s. Republicans had a larger advantage only in the first quarter of 1991, after the U.S. victory in the Persian Gulf War led by then-President George H.W. Bush.