Newly released figures from Gallup show that the demographics of the American electorate (age, race, sex, etc.) have changed very little since 2008 except in one way: Party affiliation has swung dramatically toward the Republican party, and away from the Democratic party, during President Obama’s term. Gallup’s tallies on the composition of the electorate show that, among likely voters, Democrats held a 10-point advantage over Republicans in party affiliation in 2008 — 39 to 29 percent. Four year later, Gallup’s tallies show that, among likely voters, Republicans hold a 1-point advantage over Democrats in party affiliation — 36 to 35 percent. That’s an 11-point swing in just four years.
Gallup writes that “the largest changes in the composition of the electorate compared with the last presidential election concern the partisan affiliation of voters.” It adds, “In fact, the party composition of the electorate this year looks more similar to the electorate in 2004 than 2008.” In 2004, according to Gallup, Republicans enjoyed a 2-point advantage over Democrats in party affiliation — 39 to 37 percent.
When independents who lean toward a given party are included, the changes in party affiliation are even more striking. In 2004, Gallup showed that Republicans and Democrats were tied in party affiliation when leaners were included — at 48 percent apiece. In 2008, Democrats enjoyed a 12-point edge when leaners were included — 54 to 42 percent. In 2012, Republicans enjoy a 3-point edge when leaners are included — 49 to 46 percent. That’s a 15-point swing since 2008.
To be sure — despite these swings — Gallup still shows Republicans with only a 1-point edge in party affiliation (without counting leaners). But given how well most recent polling has shown Mitt Romney doing among independent voters, the GOP nominee would presumably be quite happy to supplement his apparent advantage among independents with even a 1-point advantage in turnout.
In short, if Gallup is right about likely voters’ party affiliation — and especially if it’s right about the 11-point swing toward the GOP since 2008 — that’s very good news for Romney and very bad news for Obama.