While the Obama administration is thinking about ways to win over independents in anticipation of the 2012 election, they actually should be worried that a large segment of former Democrats are no longer choosing to identify themselves with the party. From Gallup:
In 2010, 31% of Americans identified as Democrats, down five percentage points from just two years ago and tied for the lowest annual average Gallup has measured in the last 22 years. While Democrats still outnumber Republicans by two points, the percentage identifying as independents increased to 38%, on the high end of what Gallup has measured in the last two decades. [...]
While there is usually some year-to-year variation in party identification at the aggregate level, the changes are typically not large. Thus, the five-point drop in Democratic identification over the past two years, from the party’s 22-year high of 36% (tying the 1988 figure) to its 22-year low of 31%, is notable.
Perhaps equally significant is that the percentage of Americans identifying as Republicans has increased only slightly to 29% during this time, and remains on the low end of what Gallup has measured the past two decades.
This would indicate that the success of the GOP in 2010 was not the result of Republicans successfully winning new converts with new ideas, but a direct result of the failure of the Democratic party.
We did not see a significant segment of Democrats and independents deciding they now ideologically belong with the Republican Party, but we did see a lot of former Dems deciding for some reason that they no longer wanted to associate with the Democrats.
Instead of President Obama worrying about winning over independents, he should think about dealing with the more serious problem of stopping the bleeding away of his party’s base.