Republican voters have made gains in Pennsylvania and around the nation, according to recent polls.
“As voters feel the disastrous impact of [President Joe] Biden and Democrats’ failed agenda, enthusiasm for common-sense Republican solutions is soaring,” said Republican National Committee spokesperson Allie Carroll. “Building on this momentum, the RNC’s data-driven ground game continues to mobilize our grassroots army across the state to bring new voters into the fold and deliver victories up and down the ballot this fall.”
Pennsylvania registered voters shifted their partisan identification in favor of the Republican Party substantially in 2021, according to the Franklin & Marshall College Center for Opinion Research.
Its polling shows 47 percent of registered voters identified as Democrat and 44 percent as Republican in 2020. As of October 2021 however, 42 percent of registered voters identify as Democrat and 47 percent as Republican, flipping a 3 percent Democrat lead to a 5 percent Republican lead.
More registered voters in the state now identify as Republican than in at least a decade, according to Berwood Yost, director of the center.
Republicans have been slowly chipping away at Democrats’ significant registration advantage since 2008, with those gains paused during most of the Trump presidency.
Voter identity measures voters’ psychological attachment to a party while voter registration strictly shows what party a voter picked when registering to vote.
“The party identification measure is a bit stronger predictor” of voter preferences, said Yost.
The center highlighted several causes for the shift, including the end of the Trump presidency and Biden’s performance in office.
“There is some relationship between President Trump’s departure from office and the Republican gains,” said Yost. “It is likely that some of those people who aligned with Republicans but weren’t supporters of the former president may have returned to the party. Of course, assessments of President Biden’s performance are also at play here.”
The center’s October poll found one-third of voters in Pennsylvania have changed their mind about Biden’s job performance due to inflation, repeated spikes of COVID-19, and the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Additionally, by comparing voter registration data to 2021 voter identification survey data, the center found, “Republicans seem more firmly committed psychologically to their registration in 2021 than they were in 2020, independents’ perspectives have shifted a bit toward Republicans, and more Democrats see themselves aligned with Republicans than as independents.”
Thirteen percent of registered Democrats in Pennsylvania identified with the Republican party as of late 2021 compared to 8 percent in 2020. Only 1 percent of Democrats view themselves as independent.
Other pollsters agree that the trend is toward the GOP.
Charles McElwee, editor of RealClear’s Pennsylvania media program, noted that an ongoing shift toward Republicans emerged among Western and Northeastern Pennsylvanians during the Obama administration and has accelerated due to pandemic policies.
“The GOP’s gains post-Trump indicate widespread anger over the Democratic Party’s persistently leftward direction amid the pandemic,” he said. “The party has too often focused on polarizing social issues, rather than immediate economic concerns in blue-collar communities. The party’s policy priorities, in addition to its COVID-era leadership at the national and state levels, only hastened voters’ decision to change their party registration to Republican.”
Changes in Pennsylvania registered voter sentiment mirror a national trend.
According to interviews of more than 12,000 U.S. adults done by Gallup, the GOP closed a 9 percent Democrat edge in party identification in the first quarter of 2021 and flipped it to a 5 percent lead. As of the 4th quarter, 47 percent of Americans identify with the GOP while 42 percent identify with the Democrat Party.
In an overview of its data Gallup notes: “The Democratic lead in the first quarter was the largest for the party since the fourth quarter of 2012.” They note that this substantial lead for Democrats was largely due to President Trump’s severe unpopularity after the election, bottoming at 34 percent after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
However, Biden’s approval ratings have since steadily declined from the high fifties to the low forties, according to Gallup.
A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Democratic Committee did not respond to requests for comment.