Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is The GOP Shrinking In Collin Co. Like It Is Nationally?

In more than 7,000 interviews conducted by the Pew Research Center in the four months of 2009, just 23 percent of voters self-identify as members of the Republican Party. (Pew Report) That's down from 30 percent in 2004 and down from 25 percent as recently as January in previous Pew polls.

The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll shows just 21 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as Republicans and the latest NBC/WSJ (original poll here) shows only one in five (20%) adults self-identifies as Republican.

That's the lowest since the fall of 1983, when just 19 percent identified themselves as Republicans. From a high-water mark of 35 percent in the fall of 2003, Republicans have slid steadily to their present low state in the several recent party identification polls.

The Associated Press reports that a polling firm with close ties to the GOP found in its latest survey that the public holds greater confidence in Democrats than in Republicans in handling most of the issues. Democrats were favored by a margin of 61 percent to 29 percent on education; 59 percent to 30 percent on health care and 59 percent to 31 percent on energy. Democrats were even viewed with more confidence in handling taxes.

According to the Pew Research data Republican identification has sunk by more than five points in all four regions of the U.S. Just one in five voters in the Northeast call themselves Republican, the party's worst region, while 25 percent of Southerners say they are Republican, the region where the GOP performs best.

But these Republican losses have not translated into substantial Democratic gains. Voters who once called themselves Republicans are not ready to call themselves Democrats.

So far in 2009, 35% of adults nationwide identify as Democrats, about the same as in 2008 (36%). While GOP identification has fallen seven points since 2004, the Democrats have gained only two points over that period. Instead, a growing number of Americans describe themselves as independents, 36% in 2009 compared with just 32% in 2008 and 30% in 2004.

Looking at the individual monthly surveys since December suggests that both political parties are facing declining membership in the wake of an engaging election cycle.

In the Pew Research Center's April 2009 survey, 33% identified as Democrats, down from 39% in December 2008. Over the same period, the share calling themselves Republicans has fallen from 26% to 22%. By contrast, the number of independents has risen from 30% in December to 39% now. While it is not unusual for Republican and Democratic identification to grow over the course of an election and subside afterward, the magnitude of these changes is noteworthy.

The pattern of partisan change in recent years has been remarkably consistent across the nation. Since 2004, the GOP has lost at least five points in party identification in every region of the nation. Meanwhile, Democratic identification in 2009 is either at or just slightly above 2004 levels.

It is just my opinion, but I think the trends described in these national polls also describe what is happening in Collin Co. and Texas. If so, then Democratic candidates in Collin County can appeal to newly "independent" voters not by waving the Democratic Party flag, but by talking sensibly about the issues. That's what the GOP is planning to do.

The GOP is set to launch a new rebranding effort to revive the image of the Republican Party. The new initiative, called the National Council for a New America, will involve an outreach by a group of GOP'ers, ranging from 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain to Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and the younger brother of President George W. Bush. The group is planning town halls around the country, to discuss issues like health care, the economy, energy and national security.

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