Mike Hais's latest political polling blog:
As indicated in last week's posting on Daily Kos, the large majority (about 80%) of self-identified independents actually "lean" to one or the other of the two parties. Consequently, most independents (and by extension, the electorate) are far more partisan than a cursory overview of poll findings might suggest. Currently, the Democrats hold a solid and increasing lead over the Republicans among the majority of independents who lean toward a party. About six in ten "leaners" now tilt to the Democrats. Pew Research Center data for the past three months indicates that a majority of the electorate (51%) identifies with or leans to the Democratic Party. A third (34%) is Republican identifiers and leaners. Only 14% is completely unaffiliated or "pure independents." Rather than being the decisive center, non-committed voters actually comprise a small minority of the electorate.
The clear and persistent partisanship of Independent Republicans and Independent Democrats is also strikingly evident in their political opinions. The table below, containing data collected by Pew in May 2009, portrays favorable attitudes toward a number of political figures and the two parties.
* millennial makeover's diary :: ::
Strong Not Strong Independent Totally Indep. Not Strong Strong
Dems Dems Dems Indep. Rep. Rep. Rep.
Barack Obama 97% 94% 94% 78% 37% 58% 37%
Michelle Obama 95% 90% 87% 70% 61% 65% 59%
Joe Biden 80% 70% 65% 44% 22% 33% 30%
George W. Bush 7% 15% 15% 38% 56% 65% 83%
Dem. Party 94% 87% 79% 35% 27% 35% 13%
Rep. Party 11% 26% 34% 28% 62% 71% 88%
• Independent leaners hold strikingly partisan attitudes. Solid majorities of them have positive impressions of politicians from the party to which they lean and of that party itself. Only a minority of them express favorable opinions about the opposing party and its politicians. While the independent leaners may not be as firmly positive about "their" party as are strong identifiers, they do have a solid sense of partisan connection. They are clearly not uncommitted and easily malleable centrists.
• The non-leaning independents are indeed broadly nonpartisan in their attitudes. Fewer than half express positive opinions about any political figure other than the president and first lady or toward either party. But this is as much a matter of limited political knowledge and involvement as it is of conscious weighing of options or firmly divided opinion. This is evidenced by the fact that while almost all of the uncommitted independents were able to say whether or not they like Barack and Michelle Obama as people (or celebrities), a third were unable to rate the president's job performance in the same survey.
The Democratic Party has an historic opportunity to solidify a governing majority for the next two decades. But that will require its leaders, particularly those in Congress, to focus on the needs and attitudes of the key demographic constituencies that comprise a disproportionate share of those who think of themselves as Democrats—young people and minorities in particular—and not be seduced into chasing the chimera of "non-partisan" independent voters.