As the cultural divide between Republicans and Democrats widens, a new study indicates that both parties are being usurped by an emerging Independent plurality.
In 2009 alone, so many people have fled both the Republican and Democrat parties that the number of people who identify themselves as Independents has surpassed them both, according to a new study from the Pew research Center.
The survey, released Thursday, found that, in April, 39 percent of the respondents called themselves Independents, 33 percent identified as Democrats, and 22 percent called themselves Republicans.
"Centrism has emerged as a dominant factor in public opinion as the Obama era begins," the report concludes.
If nothing else, the survey indicates that the nation is experiencing an epic shakeup of political alignments.
As late as December 2008, Democrats held a clear majority, with 39 percent of the respondents identifying themselves as such. Independents back then were at 30 percent -- just barely ahead of the Republicans' 26 percent.
This means that although Republican numbers appear to be at a 25-year low, the biggest exodus since the November election has been from the Democratic side of the divide.
The latest results of the continual survey -- which the Pew Center has been tracking since 1987 -- are based on the interviews of 3,013 adults over landline and cell phones during the first three weeks of April.
The report concludes that the proportion of Independents is now at a 70-year high.
The study also found that the political philosophy of Republicans and Democrats is more polarized than ever.
Independents, meanwhile, tend to line up with Democrats on social issues such as gay marriage and religion, but share the Republicans' unease with the idea of expanding the social safety net and the government's role in private-sector affairs.
The survey also included a broader "yearly average" calculation that tamed the results somewhat but found the same overall trend: Independents led the pack (36 percent), followed closely by Democrats (35 percent) and Republicans (23 percent).
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