Gallup just released a poll in which, for the first time, half of Americans refused to identify as either a Republican or a Democrat. It also showed those who are committed to the two incumbent parties perfectly divided with each at 25%. The poll was taken in the week after the inauguration.
Gallup has regularly polled this question since 2004. Throughout that period there has been a steady erosion in the support for both parties, but the trend has rapidly accelerated.
Another Gallup poll showed that 62% of Americans now favor the creation of a third party. Their polling over time indicates support for a third party has been steadily growing over the last two decades. Other polls are finding the similar sentiments.
I think the reason both parties are losing support is clear: Their views do not represent a majority of Americans. Each party increasingly represents extreme visions of America that are popular with their primary voters, but not the majority of Americans in the middle of political spectrum.
It was supposedly Aristotle who first said that “nature abhors a vacuum.” So does politics. Half of Americans are currently unrepresented by any political party. As much as the current duopoly might try to resist it, I predict Aristotle will be proven right and something is going to fill the void left by our two parties careening off to the political extremes.
Lee Drutman’s book has convinced me that the current system should be replaced with a multi-party system, as exists in almost every other democracy in the world. That system is not without its drawbacks and certainly just changing our political party system does not guarantee either better public policy or a more representative government. But it is clear to me that our two-party system is not working – a view that a majority of Americans now share.