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Independents on the rise in California

by Damon Eris, published

California continues to witness a steady rise in the number of voters who choose not to affiliate with any political party. According to the most recent numbers released by the Secretary of State, 21.2% of California voters are now registered as having no party preference, a new high. The previous record was set in March of last year when 20.4% of all registered voters declined to state a party affiliation on their registration forms.


The percentage of Independent voters in the Golden State has more than doubled over the course of the last two decades. In 1995, just 10.5% of California's voters declined to state a party affiliation. Over the same period, the percentage of registered Democrats declined by 4.1% to 43.6% of registered voters and the percentage of registered Republicans fell by 6.4% to 30.4% of the state's electorate.  The increase corresponds to a nationwide trend, through there are relatively fewer self-described Independents in California than in the country at large, where upwards of 40% refuse to identify with any party whatsoever.

San Francisco county has the highest concentration of Independent voters in California, where they outnumber Republicans by a 3 to 1 margin. 30.5% of San Francisco's voters have no party preference, while just 9.2% affiliate with the GOP. 55.7% of San Franciscans are Democrats.

Interestingly, the county with the lowest percentage of Independent voters is also among those with the highest percentage of registered Republicans. In Madera county, 47.9% of voters are registered with the Republican party while just 14.4% decline to state a party preference. 33.7% of the county's voters affiliate with the Democratic party.

It is noteworthy that though the Secretary of State's office recently reported that there are 30 California counties in which Republicans constitute a majority of registered voters, there are in fact no counties in California where more than half of all voters are registered with the GOP. Modoc county, where the GOP represents a 49.2% plurality, has the highest concentration of registered Republicans in California.

The American Independent Party and the Green Party are the two largest third party organizations recognized by the state. 2.5% of Californians are registered with the American Independent Party while Greens account for 0.7% of the state's electorate. 0.6% of California voters are registered Libertarians and 0.4% affiliate with the Peace and Freedom Party.

In addition to the seven political parties officially recognized by the state (i.e. the American Independent Party, Americans Elect, the Democratic Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, the Republican Party), twenty-one other political bodies are currently seeking to qualify for the June 5 presidential primary election, demonstrating a significant level of independent third party political activity. Among them are the Constitution Party, the California Moderate Party, the Dharma Party, the Justice Party, the People's Party, the Reform Party and the Whig Party. Of these, the Reform Party has the highest number of registered members with 20,722.

A large majority of Independents consistently tell pollsters that they desire alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans. They are out there. The only question is: when will Independents begin to support them?