Republican-Leaning Independents Rediscover Their Affinity for the GOP
New data from Gallup show independents drifting away from Democrats — and President Obama in particular — in large numbers. After averaging four months of tracking numbers and conducting more than 6,000 interviews with registered voters in June, Gallup found that by an average ten-point margin, 45 percent to 35 percent, independents have consistently favored the Republican in a generic GOP-Dem matchup:
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President Obama’s own approval ratings seem to play into this: Since March, 42 percent of independent registered voters have approved of Obama’s performance, to 51 percent disapproving. Of those 51 percent, an overwhelming majority — 71 percent — said that they would vote for a Republican congressional candidate if the election were held today. By contrast, 63 percent of those who approved of Obama said that they would vote for the Democrat.
Of course, it’s important to remember that these numbers are never as bad as they appear, for the simple reason that “independents” aren’t an undifferentiated mass of reasonable people. By and large, self-identified independents have clear partisan preferences, and lean toward one party or the other. When push comes to shove, those partisan leaners will fall in line with their less ambiguous fellow-travelers, and in all likelihood, that’s what we’re seeing now. Republican-leaning independents who may have been favorably disposed to President Obama are rediscovering their inner conservative and returning to the fold. There may be some genuine independents — or weak Democrats — who have moved to supporting the Republican candidate, but my guess is that they are a small portion of the overall total.