Democrats Make Massive Gains as GOP Deteriorates

In seven short years, the American electorate has radically changed.

In seven short years, the American electorate has radically changed, as voters' priorities have shifted to the economy and away from such wedge issues as abortion and gay rights, as well as away from the threat of terrorism and from the war in Iraq, according to a comprehensive survey released Thursday morning by the Pew Research Center.

From 2002 to 2009, voters' partisan identification has moved from virtual parity -- 43 percent Republican and 43 percent Democratic at the height of George W. Bush's popularity in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 -- to a massive Democratic advantage today of 53 to 36, a 17 percentage point split, by far the largest difference in the past two decades.

The Pew survey is a testament to the miscalculations of the Bush administration and of the Republican leadership in Congress. The two were handed an extraordinary opportunity to build on an outpouring of public support in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Instead, those chances to revive a Republican majority were squandered on a mismanaged invasion of Iraq and dissipated by ill-advised culture war offensives, as well as by disclosure of corrupt lobbying and spending scandals in Congress under Republican rule.

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Thomas B. Edsall is the political editor of the Huffington Post. He is also Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.