Number of Registered Independents Nationwide Jumps 11.2% in 5 Years

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Put the state of Colorado into a news search engine right now and you’ll get one big result: Yes, you can now legally buy marijuana for personal use in the state.

However, there’s something more important going on than the ability of Coloradans to get legally high. Colorado was one of three states to see an increase of more than 30 percent in the number of registered independent voters, according to new research.

While Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico saw the biggest increases, the number of registered independents nationwide has jumped 11.2 percent in 5 years — a record increase.

 

 

The rise in independent voices is also marked by a concomitant fall in the numbers of voters registering with the two main parties. Democrats are down by 1 percent and there are 0.4 percent fewer registered Republican voters.

While it could be that the electorate has simply had enough of the political establishment and its organizations, the numbers don’t reflect a direct switch from an established party to independent.

As with any national figures there are caveats. Not all the states report their voter registrations in the same way. It could be that this huge rise in independent voters is a result of newly registered voters, a movement around the country, or switching political allegiances.

Alongside Third Way’s work is the striking results of a recent Gallup poll that says 46 percent of voters nationwide self-identify as independents.

 

 

It is probably true, however, to say that American politics is as diverse and divided as it has been for a long time. Politicians — still overwhelmingly from one of the two main parties — simply aren’t popular.

Obamacare has seen a hugely polarized debate in which a cartoon can complain that more birth control for women will mean more STDs for men and students can be promised they will take STD tests “without paying a penny.” The government shutdown was just another demerit mark and both Congress and the president have record-low approval ratings.

Colorado saw a bigger jump in independent voter registration than any other state — up 47 percent. This may reflect local as well as national issues. Experts say there is a strong streak of libertarianism in Colorado.

Governor John Hickenlooper (D) is under threat after a bad year in the state with some high profile shooting deaths and national disasters. He will face re-election this year and polls suggest he may lose. Laws to limit gun ownership have proved unpopular and cost three Democratic state senators their seats.

Tax increases were predictably disliked as well and in a state described as “purple” because of its equal mix of Democrats, Republicans and independents, Hickenlooper has been too liberal for many in the state. The same division, however, is something his opponents have to contend with as well.

All this in a swing state where University of Denver professor, Peter Hanson, says many independents – socially liberal, but economically conservative – could go either way come the next presidential election.

 

 

While this research is the work of a Democratic group, it does highlight an important issue for both main parties. Democrats and Republicans need to take note of what independents are thinking and acknowledge that like their own diverse parties, independents do not speak with one voice.

While the growth of independents might suggest that both parties would head for the fabled center ground on which all elections are won, it also leaves the parties with a stronger, more committed, and less centrist body of members. As most states deny independents meaningful access to the pivotal primary process, this may not have the impact many hope to see in 2014.

Photo Credit: Keith Bell / shutterstock.com

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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  1. Michael P Jordan I don't believe we can get anything accomplished with political reform, until we reform campaign financing. The less than Supreme court has screwed the people of this country with their Citizen united ruling. If Corporations are to considered people then their CEO should be able to held responsible, for the wall street crash of 2008 the only person tried and convicted and imprisoned was Maddof and that's because he screwed the wealthy. No one held responsible for screwing the average person. Congress is the blame because of campaign money. Maybe we should just have a set amount any candidate can spend an amount around 8 million this would also eliminate all those stupid and irritating attack ads. No special interest groups allowed to run ads of their own. I just get so tired of hearing the ads every 5 minutes on tv,or the radio during elections. I myself feel if you have to try to degrade your opponent instead of highlighting your leadership or accomplishments, then your now worth voting for in the first place.
  2. Independent Workers of America Labor Association ( The system is simply not working well for the genersal population - which is problematic for a true democracy. The process is dominated by professional insiders who are paid for by "Monied Intererst." The problem is then magnified by an electoral rpocess - party dominated that generally re-elects 90% of its members. So, if change is what is needed, how in the world c an we expect to get it by re-electing the same crowd that has consistantly given us "NOTHING".
  3. Jeannette Bardi I'm NOT surprised!
  4. David Soltau Independent since 2006
  5. Mike Rudner I have been independent my whole life.
  6. Dana Ward Carlson Difficult, but not impossible.
  7. Karen Mclaughlin I wanna vote like I order my Chinese food ... I from column a ... I from column b... Ect....
  8. Jess M Rodriguez Count me In!!
  9. Frank J. Cota it's simple...............vote for your own self interests, and don be scared to, check your senators and congressmen's voting records, it's all public record, and make sure it aligns with what you believe in your heart.
  10. John Liptok Liptok for President 2016 Independent 2012 - 32000 votes ---- 2016 ???
108 comments
Michael P Jordan
Michael P Jordan

I don't believe we can get anything accomplished with political reform, until we reform campaign financing. The less than Supreme court has screwed the people of this country with their Citizen united ruling. If Corporations are to considered people then their CEO should be able to held responsible, for the wall street crash of 2008 the only person tried and convicted and imprisoned was Maddof and that's because he screwed the wealthy. No one held responsible for screwing the average person. Congress is the blame because of campaign money. Maybe we should just have a set amount any candidate can spend an amount around 8 million this would also eliminate all those stupid and irritating attack ads. No special interest groups allowed to run ads of their own. I just get so tired of hearing the ads every 5 minutes on tv,or the radio during elections. I myself feel if you have to try to degrade your opponent instead of highlighting your leadership or accomplishments, then your now worth voting for in the first place.

Independent Workers of America Labor Association (IWALA)
Independent Workers of America Labor Association (IWALA)

The system is simply not working well for the genersal population - which is problematic for a true democracy. The process is dominated by professional insiders who are paid for by "Monied Intererst." The problem is then magnified by an electoral rpocess - party dominated that generally re-elects 90% of its members. So, if change is what is needed, how in the world c an we expect to get it by re-electing the same crowd that has consistantly given us "NOTHING".

Mike Rudner
Mike Rudner

I have been independent my whole life.

Karen Mclaughlin
Karen Mclaughlin

I wanna vote like I order my Chinese food ... I from column a ... I from column b... Ect....

Frank J. Cota
Frank J. Cota

it's simple...............vote for your own self interests, and don be scared to, check your senators and congressmen's voting records, it's all public record, and make sure it aligns with what you believe in your heart.

John Liptok
John Liptok

Liptok for President 2016 Independent 2012 - 32000 votes ---- 2016 ???

Mark Helms
Mark Helms

all they do if think about themselves and not the American people.If they would just work together they could accomplish so much............

Chet Waskiewicz
Chet Waskiewicz

time for a real 3rd party to come out of the woodwork that is for WE THE PEOPLE and not another bought and paid for group . we need to outlaw the lobby industry as well as get rid of all union , big business , foreign , and all money not coming from the voters only .. this also need to be limited . we do not need millionaires buying elections for themselves .

Roy Brouwer
Roy Brouwer

Good luck to you and The American Party!

Jill Bossi
Jill Bossi

I did Roy, I am running for the US Senate in South Carolina

Sandy Hood
Sandy Hood

Idk how I can be a Independent when I hate the current GOP? I voted (R) for close to 30 years too...If Huntsman or some other commonsense (R) ran I MIGHT vote for them BUT feeling as I do today I seriously doubt it

Bill Drac Edwards
Bill Drac Edwards

Political Parties, only helps "them", I can choose my own President, by LISTENING to what each of them has to say... END PARTISANSHIP, RET USAF

Sharon Fidler
Sharon Fidler

by voting the current ones out, you send a message that they should listen to the voters and not to big money!

Kevin C. Smith
Kevin C. Smith

I'm willing to follow you, right up until you started invoking deities....

Kevin C. Smith
Kevin C. Smith

I'll agree that we have only to parties but neither one is to the left of center. The Democrats are somewhere between what would normally be liberal/moderate Republicans. The only reason that the liberals in the Democratic Party are heard at all is because the party, as a whole, is the very definition of feckless. The Republicans have been moving constantly farther to the right since 1980, an agenda that has been weeding out the moderates.

Thomas Weatherford
Thomas Weatherford

The problem is that their is actually no division in our current politics. The Republicans and Democrats are the same party working against the people. Independents are forced out of so much of the process because of a very uneducated electorate.

Kevin C. Smith
Kevin C. Smith

Because they are either doing too much wrong or not enough right.

Sharon Wendel
Sharon Wendel

Why? Because our congress is only for them selves

Darel L Donahue
Darel L Donahue

That number is wayyyy low . There's more of us than that

Shelia Trump Hauser
Shelia Trump Hauser

The problem with registering as an Independent is that you have less of a voice since you're not choosing candidates in the primaries.

Brian Shank
Brian Shank

One of the reasons for the decline in popularity of the two major parties is because of people's stupid habit of judging the whole party based on the actions or statements of one or a very few party members. This very common logical fallacy in politics today unnecessarily creates a bitter, divisive two-party rivalry. I am advocating electoral reform to elect more independents and third party members in the hope that this type of two-party rivalry will be alleviated. As a first step, let's get rid of plurality voting and use something much better like approval or range voting.

Mark Welker
Mark Welker

I have been registered American independent since 1980... the main reason why independent registration has gone up, has a lot to do with the fact that many people who had an R before their name have left the party..... these are the people who are sick and tired of Republicans being completely worthless,. and not representing them. there have been a few Democrats as well, but the vast majority of the new independents are either former Republicans, or new voters who are looking for a better plan then the dichotomy we have now.

Yolanda Emery
Yolanda Emery

But how else should we vote? I've been voting for the lesser of two evils since I started voting. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.

Stacy Kuta
Stacy Kuta

the independent vote is useless without #ElectionReform!

Carole OShaughnessy
Carole OShaughnessy

TRANSLATION TO THE MEDIA THAT DON'T KNOW WHATS GOING ON. It means we are fed up with both parties, we will vote for the most responsible, competent, we will educate ourselves, we will not listen to the BS, educate educate educate. I guarantee it only takes a few speeches to recognize incompetence, BS, and the bad ones that want to live off of Tax payers dime will expose themselves that they don't even qualify for dog catchers. (No offense intended toward dog catchers.

Roy Brouwer
Roy Brouwer

Like Pogo said, "we've met the enemy and they is us!" WE are responsible for making/letting this divisiveness get out of hand. Instead of complaining, DO SOMETHING!!

Johnny Ritchie
Johnny Ritchie

I agree. I think the Tea Party is the leader of the obstructionism to fixing any, even one single problem. The Ted Cruz's,Bachmans, Palin's, Allen West's are slowing eliminating the Republican Party. Most informed people can recognize the ridiculous and the obstruction to fixing our problems. Then we have the trickle down policies which does not trickle to the masses...

John Allegro
John Allegro

Diverse and divided as it ever has been? We might not have been quite so diverse but we've NEVER been so divided in the 55 years I've been on this planet. That's simply because we have access to real time information and disinformation and of course we can't keep our opinions to ourselves either so we're all part of the reason for the divisiveness. I would like to see voters act a little more mature and vote with their minds rather than their hearts. Weigh out the pro's and con's and decide what they want to actively work for if their candidate or issue doesn't have everything they agree with.

Jim Hennager
Jim Hennager

check us out at www.newindependentpartyiowa.info

Shirley Louise Black
Shirley Louise Black

i am anti incumbent,they all have created this mess and an uniformed voter perpetuates it.

Susan Jefferson
Susan Jefferson

Spoken like a true liberal. I checked out your page to see why you seem to only post MSNBC sound bites. Wasn't surprised at all to see that almost everyone of your "likes" was for the MSNBC Pundits. What are you even doing here? You are no Independent. Independents know that responsibility and accountability falls on both sides of the political spectrum. The rise of the tea party? Is that what has been forcing corruption in Washington and lies from politicians? Seriously? Nothing like trolling for your favorite political party with pom-poms on an Independent page ... trying to get your digs in on the Tea Party when actually nobody cares since we are almost all Independents.

Quark Hadren
Quark Hadren

It would be so nice if all problems could be 'blamed' on only one party. Then the fix would be easy. But the truth is we have two parties representing their respective extremes. The Dems are left. The Repubs are right. They are too far left and too far right and neither will 'cooperate' with the other. The problem IS the two-party duopoly - the only thing they agree on is keeping themselves in control of our political system. For example, they happily cooperate in the Commission on Presidential Debates - a private non-profit set up and run by the DNC and RNC that controls who will be seen in public debates. (No one could possibly say it isn't a problem when a private organization controls public debates.) BOTH parties are the problem. And they are both happy to have people think it is only the 'other side' that is a problem - that's how they keep control. If you want to see the playbook they are using, re-read Animal Farm. They are following it very, very closely - and it appears to be working!

Jill Bossi
Jill Bossi

I agree with Michael but as a third party candidate myself I am learning just how difficult it is to break this cycle of voting behaviors. While studies and surveys show that voters are disgusted with the current Congress and career politicians, they are overwhelming sending "their guy" back to Congress year over year. So many voters don't want to take a chance on an Independent or Third Party candidate, even if they have more in common with that person and the individual demonstrates knowledge and is capable. They want to go with a "winner" simply to be able to say that their guy "won" even if he did not deserve to win. There are so many convoluted contradictions in the voting patterns of Americans it is frustrating. And what is worse is that a large part of the population is not voting at all, and in many cases these are the people that have the intellect to make independent voting decisions. We need to end the careers of ALL career politicians across the board -- and start to get a new crop of people into Congress. They can't be any worse then what we've got now and they just might be a whole lot better.

Wayne Petty
Wayne Petty

limit terms for all elected officials....after a while they get too comfortable and lose touch with the people that elected them......i think people needs are not being met by the main two parties......independent party could very will become the front runner unless the other two parties get their act togather........god bless america....in god we trust........

Peter Specht
Peter Specht

This only means something if they change, at least sometimes, how they tend to vote. Otherwise, its meaningless.

Kenneth Potter
Kenneth Potter

The rise of the tea party, that prevents cooperation between parties.

Michael Goins
Michael Goins

So, what you are saying is that the Independent Voter is responsible for 2012? Doesn't speak well of us, now does it?

Michael P Jordan
Michael P Jordan

Must stop thinking of voting in the lesser of two evils, evil is evil we really need to stop this Congress as being a career. The money has made it so corrupt every bill now must be OK'd it seems by big business. This has to stop time to give Congress an enima and clean out it bowels.

Jack Waugh
Jack Waugh

I don't care what Repugnicrats "need" to do. What matters is what the rest of us do.