File this away when contemplating the sample of future nationwide polls:
The percentage of Americans identifying as political independents increased in 2011, as is common in a non-election year, although the 40 percent who did so is the highest Gallup has measured, by one percentage point. More Americans continue to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, 31 percent to 27 percent.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the turnout on Election Day will be the same as these results. But as readers of this blog know, some pollsters end up with samples that unusually heavy with one party or the other. Since 2008, I’ve been wary of any national sample where the percentage of Democrats is more than 7 percentage points higher than the percentage of Republicans. The exit poll margin in 2008, as the nomination of the first African-American presidential candidate and the economic meltdown generated a high-water mark for Democrat turnout.
UPDATE: For what it’s worth, Larry Sabato thinks this Gallup analysis fundamentally misreads voter intent:
Gallup claims 40 percent of voters are Ind. BUNK. Real numbers at bottom: 45 percent Republican, 45 percent Democrat, 10 percent Independent and third party. Leans vote same as full.