In the four years since Barack Obama has been president, American voters have been fleeing the Democratic Party in large numbers to become Republicans, according to brand-new figures released by the Gallup polling agency.

“The largest changes in the composition of the electorate compared with the last presidential election concern the partisan affiliation of voters,” says Gallup.

Based on surveys from Oct. 1 through 24, the pollster finds 36 percent of likely voters call themselves Republicans, compared to 35 percent who are Democrats.

If those who are leaning toward a certain party are included, the GOP lead increases to 3 percent, standing at 49 to 46 percent.

But it was a much different story for Democrats in 2008, when they had 54 percent of people who identified themselves as Democrats or leaned Democratic.

“In 2008, Democrats enjoyed a wide 12-point advantage in party affiliation among national adults, the largest Gallup had seen in at least two decades,” Gallup said.

“More recently, Americans have been about as likely to identify as or lean Republican as to identify as or lean Democratic. Consequently, the electorate has also become less Democratic and more Republican in its political orientation than in 2008. In fact, the party composition of the electorate this year looks more similar to the electorate in 2004 than 2008.”

The agency says in 2004, when Republican George W. Bush was running against Democrat John Kerry for president, Republicans enjoyed a 2-point advantage over Democrats in party affiliation, 39 to 37 percent.

The new data for 2012 is being hailed by some on the political right who have complained about skewed polls that give more weight to Democrats than Republicans.

John Hinderaker at the PowerLine blog says: “If the data released today correctly reflect the voting population this year, you can throw away all of those polls that are D +9, D +7 – or, for that matter, D +1. Substantially all polls show Mitt Romney with a wide lead over Barack Obama among independents. So if today’s party ID data are correct, not only will the presidential election not be close, but the Republicans will do better than currently expected in the Senate and House, too.”

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