A Republican reality check: Democrats still dominate the nation despite the heavily symbolic victory of Sen.-elect Scott Brown in Massachusetts, according to a Gallup poll that tracked the political leanings of more than 350,000 adults in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
"Despite GOP gains, most states remain blue," said Gallup analyst Jeffrey M. Jones.
Overall, 49 percent of Americans identified themselves as Democrats or said they were independent but leaned to the Democratic Party last year, while 41 percent identified as Republicans or were Republican-leaning independents.
Democratic dominance is not what it once was, however. The party enjoyed a 52 percent to 40 percent advantage over Republicans in 2008, the year President Obama won the White House with a dramatic campaign that redefined the party's image. Their advantage has now dropped from 12 percentage points to eight. But they are still winning.
Nationwide, 13 percent declared themselves "independent, with no lean," though that preference can vary widely from state to state, Gallup said. In Massachusetts, for example, 49 percent of the respondents said they were independents, 35 percent were Democrats and 13 percent were Republicans.
Attention spans are often geared to immediate, high-profile events rather than long-term trends, however.
"Both political parties, and for that matter many journalists, can overinterpret the day's events, the short-term events," said Jim Gomes, director of the Mosakowski Institute of Public Enterprise at Clark University.
Indeed, Mr. Brown's victory prompted an avalanche of dramatic headlines and breathless reports from analysts that the young Republican was being groomed for a White House run in 2012 - a notion he shrugs off for the most part.
"I don't even have a business card. I haven't even been sworn in. I don't have any exploratory committees started. I don't have anything," Mr. Brown told ABC News on Sunday.
Voter behaviors do not necessarily match the hype of the press and political handlers.
"The American people didn't swing wildly to the left between 2004-2008. And they didn't swing wildly last year either. Americans are very pragmatic. Whether it's a Democratic label or Republican label before them, when they see someone effectively addressing their major concerns of the day, then they will lean that way," Mr. Gomes said.
As a point of contrast, a disconnect still exists between ideology and political preference, according to Gallup findings released Jan 7. Republicans are seeking to hit their stride as the midterm elections looms. Conservatives have already won the race, the pollster found.
"Conservatives finish 2009 as the No. 1 ideological group," the analysis said. "Final year-end political ideology figures confirm: conservatives (40 percent) outnumbered both moderates (36 percent) and liberals (21 percent) across the nation in 2009."
Meanwhile, Gallup has identified the most partisan spots in the nation.
At 78 percent Democratic or leaning that way, the District leads the list for that party; at 58 percent Democratic, Maryland is the most Democratic state. The most Republican state is Wyoming at 54 percent, followed by Utah at 52 percent.
In total, 23 states plus the District can be classified as "solidly Democratic," an additional 10 states are Democratic leaning, Gallup said. Four states are "solidly Republican," with 12 states "competitive."
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