One of the changes in America’s political climate is that both major parties do not have the hardcore strength in membership that they once had. However, a poll of more than 1,000 people by the Associated Press-GFK indicated that voters do align themselves with one of the parties when voting due to the policies they advocate.

The poll also revealed that people want to be able to depart from the party line when they feel it is in their best interests. In other words, there are fewer straight ticket voters than there used to be. Remember when people would boast that they always voted a straight ticket? You don’t hear that much any more.

As the poll pointed out, affiliation doesn’t always equal admiration: One-quarter of Republicans and 13 percent of Democrats say they dislike their own party.

About a third go so far as to say they distrust both parties to handle some of the most basic functions of government: 35 percent trust neither party to handle the federal budget, and 34 percent trust neither party members to manage the federal government or address the concerns of “people like me.”

An observation is that fewer Americans support the party they were “born with” compared to years ago. That alliance they had with a party while growing up has diminished. Why? Education has much to do with it. And people are more independent today.

Both Democrats and Republicans inspire unfavorable views by a majority of Americans, including one-quarter who say they dislike both parties, according to the poll.

We all know the tag that has been bestowed on parties is that the Republicans are conservative and Democrats are liberal. A Republican in the survey described Republicans as being for “small government, strong national defense, conservative social policies, more self-reliant people rather than people looking for Uncle Sam to support them financially.” A Democrat’s description of his party: “They have a social conscience and care about the underdog more than those in the upper socioeconomic classes.”

Both parties have defectors over policies. We hear defectors explain, “The party left me rather than I left it.”

It is true that more people are voting for the candidate today rather than for the party. That’s healthy for the government and the people.