Support for Democrats plunged during 2021 as President Biden struggled with the coronavirus pandemic and inflation, according to Gallup polling that found a dramatic swing in party preference handed the GOP a 5-point edge by the end of the year.
Democrats enjoyed a 9-point advantage at the start of 2021, when 49% of Americans identified as Democrat or leaning Democrat compared to 40% who identified more closely with the Republican Party.
Things changed dramatically during the second half of the year, and Republicans now hold a 47%-42% edge, the GOP’s biggest advantage in Gallup polling since Republicans took over the House in 1995.
The findings will enthuse Republican leaders, who see a good chance to retake control of the House in this year’s midterm contests and hope to wrestle back control of the evenly divided Senate.
The pollsters said the trend is likely tied to approval ratings for Mr. Biden and former President Donald Trump, who left office last January with a 34% approval rating amid a peak in COVID-19 deaths and his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election.
Mr. Biden started out strong, as virus infections dropped alongside the vaccine rollout.
But then “a summer surge of infections tied to the delta variant of the coronavirus made it clear the pandemic was not over in the U.S., and Biden‘s approval ratings began to sag,” Gallup said. “Later, the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan caused Biden‘s ratings to fall further, into the low 40s. His ratings remain low as the U.S. battles rising inflation and yet another surge of COVID-19 infections, tied to the omicron variant of the virus.”
Support for Democrats dropped below the GOP sometime in the third quarter, according to Gallup’s trendline.
The polling included 12,000 randomly sampled adults who were asked whether they identified as a Democrat or a Republican. Those who identified as independent were asked whether they lean Republican or lean Democrat.
Gallup said the GOP’s momentum might be slowing. Its monthly estimate from December showed the two parties roughly even, with 46% Republican or leaning Republican and 44% Democrat or leaning Democrat.
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