It’s hard to believe given widespread, grass-roots conservative discontent over illegal immigration and spending gone wild, but Rasmussen is reporting an uptick in the number of Americans self-identifying as Republicans. Along with the uptick in Republican numbers, there’s a corresponding decrease in Democrat self-identification. So, perhaps Pelosi/Reid’s lousy performances–and not so much GOP accomplishments–are driving the observed rebound. As the pollster notes: “A year ago at this time, the Democrats had a 6.9 percentage point advantage as they prepared to formally take control of Congress following their victories in Election 2006. It remains to be seen whether the Republican gains can last, but it is startling to note that the Democrats have lost two-thirds of the partisan advantage since taking control of Congress.”
The number of Americans who consider themselves to be Republicans jumped nearly two percentage points in December to 34.2%. That’s the largest market share for the Republican brand in nearly two years, since January 2006 (see history from January 2004 to present).
At the same time, the number of Democrats fell to 36.3%. That’s down a point compared to a month ago. During 2007, the number of Democrats has ranged from a low of 35.9% in July to a high of 37.8% in February…
…Back in May, the Republicans fell to their lowest level of party identification of the past four years (30.8%). Then, the immigration debate raged in Congress and some Republican legislators helped defeat an unpopular Senate immigration bill. Republicans have gained ground in five of the seven months since then. But, the gains in December—1.7 percentage points—matched the total gains for the previous six months combined.
The December gains for the GOP coincide with increased public confidence in the War on Terror. It’s interesting to note that this did not improve President Bush’s Job Approval ratings while helping the Republican Party overall.
The gap between the parties now shows a 2.1 percentage point advantage for the Democrats. That’s the smallest advantage for the Democrats since January 2006. It represents a dramatic change from the previous five months when the gap favored Democrats by a margin between 4.5 and 4.9 percentage points each and every month.
A year ago at this time, the Democrats had a 6.9 percentage point advantage as they prepared to formally take control of Congress following their victories in Election 2006. It remains to be seen whether the Republican gains can last, but it is startling to note that the Democrats have lost two-thirds of the partisan advantage since taking control of Congress.
Ed Morrissey looks at the implications for the presidential race:
The past year gave voters a good look at the Democratic primary challengers, a thoroughly inexperienced lot. Given that the three Democrats with any chance of winning the nomination comprise less experience in national office combined than John McCain and no executive experience at all, some disenchantment may have set in with voters. It certainly doesn’t give Democrats a reason to think that they have momentum for a general election — in fact, this survey shows the opposite.
Independent affiliation has also dropped. This looks like former Republicans returning to the party. Self-described independents only make up 29.5% of the electorate, which is the first time since June 2006 that number has been below 30%.
Don’t get your hopes up too high, though. I agree with Betsy Newmark:
I’d like to think that predictions of the looming GOP disaster are grossly exaggerated, but there is still time for the “Stupid Party” to muck things up.
Mark Jaquith notes in comments: “Many states require you to be a Republican to vote in the Republican primaries. Many of those registration deadlines were in December. What reason can you think of that people would register as Republicans just in time for the primaries? Lightbulb moment in three, two one…”
Here’s a table of voter registration dates for the presidential primaries and caucuses.
Commenter Gregor adds:
I hate bringing this up, but believe it or not, it’s likely that this surge is caused by PaulBots. Ron Paul supporters have been running a fanatical campaign urging Democrats and Independents to change Party affiliation to Republican just for this year, which would then allow them to vote in the Republican primary for Ron Paul.
There is a chance that PaulBots could do to the Republican primary what they’ve managed to do to online polls.
I’m not sure if it will be enough for him to beat any of the top candidates, but I expect that he’ll end up doing much better than what people expect.
Either way, expect to see foaming-at-the-mouth PaulBots protesting in mass and claiming rigged elections.
Indeed, Paul’s people have run an aggressive online campaign to register people in time for the primaries. Bryan Preston gives a good overview of the kind of people Paul’s luring to the GOP flock.