The Pew Center details in its recently released report that public partisan identification has shifted considerably away from the Republican Party in the last several years.
According to Pew’s latest results, 50% of Americans now identify as or lean toward Democrats, while only 35% identify or lean Republican. As recently as 2002, Pew found identification with the parties evenly split at 43%.
It is not just party identification that has shifted, though. Attitudes and values on a range of issues have also taken a left turn.
Read more after the jump….
Part of the cause for this shift in values and party identification has less to do with Democrats boosting their popularity, and more to do with Republicans losing traction. The Pew study notes:
Yet the Democrats’ growing advantage in party identification is tempered by the fact that the Democratic Party’s overall standing with the public is no better than it was when President Bush was first inaugurated in 2001. Instead, it is the Republican Party that has rapidly lost public support.
This point is confirmed in Colorado by the shift in partisan distribution of voter registration statewide. According to data from the Colorado Secretary of State, the total number of registered Republicans in Colorado has dropped over the past twenty-four months by 26,135 voters, or 2.5%. During that same time frame, Democratic registration has increased by 2,140 voters (0.3%), and the number of unaffiliated voters has grown by 47,123, or 5.2%.
This represents a decline in the Republican registration advantage over Democrats of 28,275 voters, or 15.9%.
This shift extends beyond party, though, as the Pew report notes:
Increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies have improve the political landscape for the Democrats as the 2008 presidential campaign gets underway.
Pew has specifically found a 12 point increase in agreement with the view that “government should care for those who can’t care for themselves” from 57% who agreed in 1994 to 69% in 2007.
Similarly, 41% agreed in 1994 that “government should help the needy even if it means greater debt,” whereas 54% held that view in their 2007 survey, an increase of 13 points.
On military issues, 47% now disagree that “the best way to ensure peace is through military strength”, while 49% agree. In 2002, 62% agreed with that view.
There has also been a shift in religiosity, largely because of generational differences. Among those born before 1946, 5% report being atheist or agnostic or having no religion. Among those born after 1976, 19% hold these views.
By tracking this question over time, Pew has found that the shift within a generation is virtually nonexistent. As the population ages, then, the proportion of secular voters will increase as well, as younger more secular Americans replace older Americans.