An average of 42% of Americans currently identify as Democrats or say they are independent but lean to the Democratic Party. Slightly fewer, 40%, are Republicans or Republican leaners. That narrow two-percentage-point Democratic edge is closer to what Gallup measured in the third quarter of strong Republican midterm years such as 1994, 2002, and 2010 than in the strong Democratic years of 1998 and 2006.
Democrats currently have a narrow advantage in terms of Americans' identification with the two major parties, but based on historical turnout and other structural patterns, this small advantage suggests that the Democrats face a tough election environment this year. As Gallup demonstrated earlier this summer, President Obama's below-average job approval rating and Americans' low level of satisfaction with the way things are going in the country are also ominous signs for the Democrats. Historically, these indicators are unlikely to change in a short period of time such as the three months between now and Election Day.
With Democrats' advantage in partisanship currently consistent with where it has been in previous strong GOP midterm election years, it is imperative that Democrats match or exceed Republican turnout this fall if they hope to keep control of the Senate and minimize the size of the Republican majority in the House.