Shifts in Party Affiliation
Predicting 2022, Part 1: Due to growing selection bias challenges and general difficulties with probability sampling, many pollsters do control, at some level, certain dependent variables such as Party Affiliation in their pre- and post-stratification techniques. But could our assumptions about the percentage of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats that define “representation” be wrong?
Our company recently conducted a survey study that recontacted respondents from our 2020 battleground surveys with new questions for those same respondents. Read more to learn what we found.
About the Party Shift Study
In September 2022, Wick Insights recontacted respondents from its October 2020 polling of 2020 battleground states to measure how opinions and attitudes have changed in the last 2 years. We contacted respondents using the same Text to Web and IVR survey methods as 2020. For a respondent’s answers to be included in the study, his or her reported demographics must have matched to ensure that it was, in fact, the same person taking the survey. In total, 2,360 respondents qualified for the study and answers are used in our findings.
There is no perfect way to measure changes in the percentage of the country that identifies with each party. By some accounts, Voter Registration trends are often viewed as a lagging indicator of shifts. Additionally, some of the industry’s best and most established public opinion research organizations have been running longitudinal studies for decades that track shifts (something very unpredictable due to today’s challenges with probability sampling). Since January 2020, both of these indicators have suggested that the nation has become more Republican. Our company decided to take an additional approach to determine if there has been a shift by recontacting respondents from our “Party Shift Study” to see if their answers would corroborate or challenge those indicators.
The Party Shift Study is far from perfect research; recontact studies have numerous limitations and this one doesn’t give us a definitive answer on how the party affiliation of likely voters has changed since 2020. But the study does give us a really good view into a number of segments that make up the voting population and the opportunity to piece those together and make some estimations about what might be happening on a national level.
The rest of this article provides some answers to the following questions:
- Since October 2020, has party affiliation in battleground states shifted in favor of the Republican or Democratic Party?
- What groups of people are changing the party with which they identify?
Since October 2020, has party affiliation in battleground states shifted in favor of the Republican or Democratic Party?
Before we get into the data there is something important to bear in mind when looking at self-reported party affiliation. Just because someone answered “Democrat” one day and “Independent” the next day doesn’t necessarily mean that person changed his or her party allegiance in a significant way. I would venture to say that many Republicans and Democrats reading this article have had those days where they answered “Independent” or “Libertarian” when asked about their affiliation, without a real change in affiliation taking place. So recontact studies, like the other methods, are also not a perfect way to identify shifts in party affiliation. But our study did add a piece to the puzzle and taken as a whole our Party Shift Study provides evidence that supports the data seen in voter registration trends that the spread between Republicans and Democrats has shifted in favor of Republicans since 2020. Additionally, respondents who supported Joe Biden in 2020 seem more willing to entertain Republican candidates in 2022, whereas respondents who supported Donald Trump in 2020 largely do not plan to support Democratic candidates in 2022. These results are shown in Graphic 2 below and mirror the challenges that have typically haunted the governing party for so many past midterm cycles.
When looking at voters who identified as Republicans in our 2020 survey, 84.4% of the respondents when re-contacted still identified as Republicans, and only 1.5% identified as Democrats. Amongst Democrats from the 2020 survey, on the other hand, 82.1% still identify as Democrats with 3.9% of that group now identifying as Republican. When looking at 2020 independents, 13.6% now identify as Republican and 9.1% identify as a Democrat.
This represents over a 5-point net gain for Republicans since 2020 in the difference between people who identify as Democrat and Republican.
To get another perspective on this shift and its implications, we also asked the respondents which party’s candidates they planned on supporting in the 2022 elections. Those who were supporting Joe Biden in 2020 were much more likely to entertain Republican candidates, with only 55.9% of respondents answering “Democrats only.” With 2020 Trump supporters, on the other hand, 81.9% answered “Republicans Only.”
Download the full Shifts in Party Affiliation Report
Our 2022 recontact study was full of insights about what groups of people are changing their party affiliation. Fill out the form below to get the full report!
What groups are changing their Party ID in battleground states?
Again- please fill out the form above to get the full report showing the results of our recontact study by other demographics and even issues. We found a number of groups that shifted, and we will use education in this section to highlight some of those insights that can be found across all demographics in the full report.
The Democratic Party netted the most gains from respondents with postgraduate degrees who identified as Republican in 2020 but now identify as either Independent (19.4%) or Democrat (3.6%). The Republican Party, netted the most gains amongst the respondents who completed some college or have an associate’s degree. When looking at 2020 Independents, 18.6% of respondents with some college or an associate’s degree answered that they now identify as Republican, compared to only 8.4% that identify as Democrat. Additionally, only 77.1% of 2020 Democrats in this education bracket answered that they still identify as Democrats in 2022.
This theme of shifts by education level continues when we change focus to 2020 Trump supporters. Republicans fared best with 88% of respondents of the high school or less, some college, or associate’s degree education level answering they will vote “Republican only” in 2022. Democrats fared best with respondents who hold bachelor’s and postgraduate degrees, with 65.5% of each of those groups answering they will vote “Democrat only” in 2022.
The question for pollsters is whether or not to adjust any of our methodologies. This is a tough question. In an labratory setting, the promise of a good probability sampling methodology is that you don’t need to use any stratification techniques on a dependent variable like Party Affiliation. But… if perfect probability sampling was happening right now, it would be impossible for a dozen pollsters to have a Governor candidate, destined to lose or win by 2 points in November ’22, up by 16 points in their September ’22 polls. We will write more about these challenges in Part 2 of our series where we discuss a new era of selection bias and how we hope to correct the issues they are causing.
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