The number of “strong partisans” is rising in the United States and is most prevalent among older Americans. Since 1972, the General Social Survey (GSS) has asked a representative sample of U.S. adults, “Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or what?” Following this they are asked about the strength of this identification. The share that say they are strong Democrats or Republicans peaked in 2021 for each generation.
Nearly half of Silent Generation Americans (born 1925-42) are a strong partisan. More than four in ten Baby Boomers (born 1943-60) are strong partisans. Younger generations trail behind these two older cohorts with a third of Generation X (born 1961-81) and about one in five Millennials (born 1982-2005) identifying as strong partisans.
Among the Silent Generation, the share identifying as strong Democrats is at an all-time high of 28% and those identifying as strong Republicans is at 20% just below its 21% peak in 2004. Twenty-four percent of Baby Boomers self-identify as strong Democrats and 18% as strong Republicans. These are also peaks for this generation. Generation X has never had so many self-identifying as strong Republicans at 16%. This is similar to the 17% identifying as strong Democrats (although 18% identified as such in 2008). Fifteen percent of Millennials are strong Democrats, an all-time high for the group, and 6% are strong Republicans just below their high of 7% strong Republican in 2006.
One of the segments of the adult population that is not keeping up with the rise in strong partisanship is self-identified Catholics. Since the mid-1980s, Catholics have been less likely than non-Catholics in the United States to either be a strong Democrat or a strong Republican. Generally, about 18% to 30% of Catholics have typically been strong partisans during the 1972 to 2021 period. Since the early 2000s, 30% of more of non-Catholics have been strong partisans.
In 2021, Catholics had never been more likely to be strong Republicans at 13%. More are strong Democrats, 17%, but this share is well below the Catholic peak of 23% strong Democrat in 1972. In 2021, non-Catholics were more likely to be strong Republicans than at any time since 1972 at 21%. Fewer non-Catholics in 2021 were strong Democrats at 17% (below a peak for this group of 21% strong Democrat in 1972).