What Party ID Means

 Via Ezra, I see a fairly interesting chart of party identification in the American electorate the Pew Research Center filed a while back.

Yes, you read that right, a full 51% of the population identifies as either “Democrat” or “lean Democrat.” But of course the larger question here is, what does that mean for the election? In short, the Democrat-Republican split and the rise in independents probably doesn’t mean much. As Ezra observes, most of the change comes from a tumble in Republican identification, with little movement in Democratic identification. This probably just means that some moderate to casual Republicans are increasingly reluctant and/or embarrassed to tell pollsters that they are, in fact, Republican, but that there’s no reason to assume that, in the privacy of a voting booth, they won’t still be reliable Republicans.

The independents, on the other hand, interest me quite a bit. Indeed, Democratic leaners increase by 4 points while Reublican leaners decrease by one. This is the real advantage in the numbers to Democrats at the moment, as it suggests that they enjoy an increased advantage with actual swing voters than they have in previous elections this century. So in terms of its electoral impact, it’s a good confidence builder, but in so much as everyone was going to be targeting these swing voters anyway, it doesn’t really change much on the ground.