During the 2012 presidential campaign, Gallup consistently projected a lower percentage of the vote for Obama compared to most other polls. A major factor was probably underestimating the percentage of the total voting population which leaned Democratic. Gallup may or may not still be underestimating Democrats, but regardless of total numbers they now report (probably well after the fact) that Democrats have reestablished a lead in party affiliation:
An average of 47% of Americans identified as Democrats or said they were independents who leaned Democratic in 2012, compared with 42% who identified as or leaned Republican. That re-establishes a Democratic edge in party affiliation after the two parties were essentially tied in 2010 and 2011…
Americans last year continued their trend toward greater political independence. The 40% who initially identified as political independents matched the record high from 2011. That is particularly notable, given that the usual pattern is for the percentage of Americans identifying as independents to decline in a presidential election year. In each of the last four presidential election years, dating back to 1996, the percentage of independents was lower than in the year prior to the election…
The rise in independence is perhaps not surprising, given the low esteem in which Americans hold the federal government and the political parties. But with most Americans willing to at least express a leaning to either party, it does suggest the potential for the parties to gain more solid adherents in the future.
I’m not at all surprised to find a large segment of voters who both consider themselves independent and acknowledge that they are most likely to vote Democratic. I see no reason why voting for the more sane party in a two-party system must mean personal identification with the party. I’ve never really considered myself to be a Democrat, but with the Republicans having been taken over by extremists I certainly would not vote for them. Of course the crazier the Republicans become, the more I have begun to identify with Democrats by default. Republicans seem determined to compete with themselves in taking extreme views which are totally out of touch with reality, becoming an increasingly smaller tent.
One of several factors involved is that the Democrats are a large tent with a wide variety of viewpoints and no unifying philosophy beyond not being bat-shit crazy like Republicans. I will agree with any given Democratic candidate a variable percent of the time. On the other hand, it has become very rare to agree with anything coming from the Republicans, and even when I disagree with Democrats I can at least see a coherent argument for their position.
Of course there may be nothing new here. It has been well known that most self-identified independents tend to vote for one of the political parties. Then there’s Will Roger’s famous quote, “I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”