Arizona has declared its independence from two-party politics as a full third of the state's electorate is now “unaffiliated” with either Republican or Democratic parties. Independents now outnumber Democrats and are closing in on Republicans in the Grand Canyon state.
While both major parties in Arizona have lost membership over the past 4 years, the Independent bloc grew by roughly a quarter million voters. Since President Obama's election, the number of Arizonans who've registered Independent surged by 23 percent.
For a quick illustration of how this trend might influence the presidential race, consider statewide exit polling data from 2008's general election. Back then, 39% of voters called themselves Republicans, 32% Democrats and 30% were self-identified Independents. Republican John McCain did end up winning his home state with 54 percent of ballots cast, but the 200,000 votes which carried the Senator came mainly from his outreach to unaffiliated voters. Note: 222,056 new Independents have registered to vote in the state since that time. The evolved voter-scape puts Arizona squarely in toss-up territory.
I'm not too handy with infographics (can you tell?), but the following table deserves some creative treatment if its not already eye-opening.
*All voter registration data was gleaned from the Arizona Secretary of State and is available online here. 2012 numbers are accurate as of April 6.
One thing is clear: Independents will decide Arizona's choice for president this November.