A remarkable number of Americans favor political realignments in the United States and would like to see the creation of a new "center party."
These views are recorded at a time when the Democratic Party has just extended its control of both houses of Congress for at least another two years, representing a half-century domination of the legislative branch.
As the question was posed in a new Gallup Poll conducted just before the elections, such a center party would appeal to people who are middle-of-the-road politically, while the Republican Party would represent people who are right of center and the Democratic Party would represent those left of center.
The results show 41 percent of Americans nationwide saying there is a place for such a center party, a like percentage, 42 percent, saying there is not, with 17 percent undecided.
In the aftermath of the Democratic Party's sweeping victory in the congressional races last Tuesday, political observers point out that the present system is mostly a two-party system in name only. Since 1932 the Republican have held majorities in Congress only in 1946-48 and 1952-54. This half-century domination of the legislative branch of government by the Democratic Party raises the question as to whether the nation is ready for a new party alignment.
Some critics say we have a four-party system: Democratic liberals, Democratic conservatives, Republican liberals and Republican conservatives. And some point out that we have a "one-and-a-half" party system since approximately twice as many legislators are Democrats as Republicans.
The continuing decline in voter turnout - only slightly more than one-third of adults voted Tuesday - is also a matter of concern. Many feel this is because the parties to not represent clear-cut ideological positions. Some voters say, in efect, "there's no difference between the parties; they both stand for the same things."
How do Americans feel about a new party alignment? To discover attitudes on this proposal, the Gallup Poll put the following question to a cross-section of the nation's adults in the days just preceding last Tuesday's election:
It has been suggested that the nation neds a new party - one that appeals to people who are middle-of-the-road in their political views. If there were such a party, then the Republicans would represent the people on the right - the conservatives; the Democrats would represent the people on the left - the liberals; and the new party would represent those in-between or in the middle. Do you think there is or is not a place for such a "center party" in the U.S. today?
While rank-and-file Republicans are opposed by a slight majority to a new center party, independents - who represent an important part of the electorate in terms of numbers - vote heavily in favor of a new party that would represent the middle ground between the Republican and Democratic parties.
Sharp differences are recorded on the basis of age of respondents, with younger persons far more favorable toward a new party that are older voters.
Voters on both coasts support the idea, while midwesterners are closely divided in their views and southerners are opposed.