University of Pittsburgh
November 1, 2009

Pitt Political Science Professor Says Polls Indicating Shift in Political Party Allegiance With More Independents Are Misleading

"This trend partly reflects a mirage and partly what is likely a partisan realignment" said Pitt's David C. Barker
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PITTSBURGH-Polls indicating a shift in political party allegiance with an increase in the number of Independents are misleading, according to David C. Barker, associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Political Science in the School of Arts and Sciences, commenting on a recent ABC News/ "Washington Post" Poll.

"This trend partly reflects a mirage and partly what is likely a partisan realignment," Barker said. "Most of the folks who have stopped identifying as Republicans and have started identifying as Independents are really still Republicans. When elections come around, they will return to the fold, particularly if there is an attractive candidate whom they can really get behind."

However, Barker noted that the events preceding the 2006 and 2008 elections could signal a more long-term realignment. Barack Obama's candidacy "was unique and drew a lot of new voters into the fold" who, Barker said, "jumped on the Obama bandwagon and joined the Democratic Party."

According to Barker, if Obama is reelected, Democratic gains will be solidified. "Once someone has voted for a particular party twice in a row, they typically continue voting for that party for life," said Barker.

Barker, director of graduate studies in the department, is an expert on the American primary and general election process, including campaign management and themes, media coverage, partisanship, and electoral rules. Barker also specializes in political psychology and methodology. Barker's book "Rushed to Judgment? Talk Radio, Persuasion, and American Political Behavior" (Columbia University Press, 2002), part of the "Power, Conflict, and Democracy Series" edited by Robert Shapiro, was nominated for the McGannon Communication Policy Research Award and the Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism. It has been cited in many popular media outlets, including "The Atlantic," "The NewsHour," "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "The Al Franken Show (Air America radio), and "The Rush Limbaugh Show".