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Americans Disapproval of Parties Signals Need for Electoral Reform

by Samuel Genson, published

A recently released poll from Gallup finds that the public opinion of the Republican Party has sunk to a record low of 28 percent. According to Gallup, this is the lowest rating for either party in the 21 years they have been tracking such numbers. Prior to this, the previous low was 31 percent in 1999.

The GOP is not alone in their declining favorability though. The Democratic Party has also seen its numbers decline to 43 percent, only one percentage point higher than their all-time low.

Since 2006, the GOP had been around 40 percent approval with the exception of a period around 2009 when their numbers were in the low thirties. When compared against the numbers of today though, those numbers look relatively rosy. Gallup's graph shows recent steep decline of the public's view of the Republican Party. The cliff-like drop off coincides with the lead-up to, and the consummation of, the current government shutdown.

Gallup polling info

These numbers are hardly happenstance though. More and more Americans are saying that partisanship is among the biggest problems facing the country right now. Additionally, six in ten Americans now feel there is a need for a legitimate third party.

There are some who feel that despite these numbers, little will change in Washington. Recent history has shown that changes can happen though.

Before 2010, Democrats had enjoyed a favorability rating that hovered around 50 percent, according to Gallup. However, between 2009 and 2010 their public approval fell by roughly 10 points. The results of their decline in the public's eye was apparent when the Republicans took over the House of Representatives in the landslide election of 2010.

While the government shutdown may be a lightning rod for animosity toward the current partisan structure of DC, it is hardly the only reason why the Republican Party has fell out of favor with so many Americans.

What is interesting about the numbers that Gallup put out is how, in the early part of the last decade, the American people were about 50 percent positive toward both parties, while in the early part of this decade the approval ratings were about 10 points lower prior to the recent GOP swan-dive.

If the numbers keep trending this way, a significant shift will likely occur. Either a third party will mount a national effort that results in extremely close races in Congress or the parties themselves will have to shift their strategies. In all likelihood, a combination of both is possible.

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