The Democratic edge in party identification that helped to propel President Obama to a decisive victory in 2008 has waned significantly, while Republicans have gained markedly and exclusively among whites, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center out Friday.
In Pew Research polls conducted in 2008, 46 percent of whites identified more as Republicans, while 44 percent identified more as Democrats. Today, Republicans have a wide edge over Democrats among white voters, 52 percent to 39 percent.
The gains among whites "are particularly pronounced among the young and poor," according to the report. Democrats held a seven-point edge among whites under age 30 in 2008, but Republicans now hold an 11-point advantage among that group.
Obama carried whites aged 18-29 by ten points in 2008, according to exit polls.
Among whites earning less than $30,000 a year, what was a dominating, 15-point advantage for Democrats is now a four-point GOP edge.
Pew has compiled a telling, side-by-side comparison of party ID in 2008 and 2011, divided by subgroup.
But, according to the report, the Republican Party's growth "has been limited in two important ways." From the report:
First, the steep gains in GOP leaning that helped the party in the 2010 midterms have not continued, as the overall balance of partisan attachments has held steady in the first half of 2011. Second, while more independents say they "lean" toward the Republican Party, the GOP has not gained in actual party affiliation since 2008 - just 28% of registered voters, in both years, call themselves Republicans. Instead, the growth category continues to be political independents, with a record high 34% of registered voters choosing this label in 2011.
The analysis is based on a number of surveys conducted from 2008-2011. Around 77,000 registered voters were interviewed during that time period. Results by year have a margin of error of +/- 1.0 percent, except for 2011 figures, which carry a margin of error of +/- 1.5 percent.