Trends in party identification - that is, the changing distribution of party allegiances in the electorate - will also influence the extent to which the Republican Party continues to gain ground at the Democrats' expense.
This chapter's feature on Party Identification in Texas shows significant change from 1978 to 1990 in the percentage of Texans that identify with one party or another. The percentage of those who identified themselves as Democratic declined from 48 to 34 percent, while those who identified themselves as Republican rose dramatically from 19 to 33 percent. The number of independents, meanwhile, stayed consistent at about 33 percent. This data confirms one simple reason Republicans have made dramatic electoral gains during this period: a larger percentage of citizens consider themselves Republican than at earlier times.
Polling conducted in October, 2012 by the University of Texas at Austin in conjunction with the Texas Tribune revealed a roughly evenly divided electorate in terms of party identification. The numbers of self-identified registered voters who identified as either Republican or Democratic were nearly even, though somewhat more independents said they leaned Republican (15%) than said they leaned Democrat (10%). The overall number of independents was 12% -- returning us to the neighborhood of independent number in the historical data from recent years.
Party identification data reveal the existence of this sizable pool of independents, roughly a third of the electorate, that the major parties might be able to tap into. However, the size of this group hasn't changed significantly since the 1970s, and there are no compelling reasons to think that either party will be able to develop long-term party loyalists from this group. Independents will remain up for grabs during every electoral cycle.