Political scientists and party pollsters run with a common narrative: Independent voters are a myth.
“We think of them as closet partisans who act in almost indistinguishable ways to those who identify as partisans,” Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth explains in a recent National Journal article.
There is a group of independent voters, however, that defy this reasoning. Here are the top 30 reasons why, despite the partisan narrative, independent voters are not a myth:
Independents, by definition, cannot be grouped.Jane Susskind
2. It is statistically proven that independents do not just vote for one party, debunking the myth that they are all “closet partisans.”
3. Even Independent “leaners” (independents who lean towards one of the two major parties) do not vote along party lines. In 2000, 73 percent of Democratic-leaning Independents voted for a Democrat, American National Elections Studies (ANES) reports. Taken at face value, this statistic seems to support the argument that Independent voters are a myth.
4. “What do you call someone who is largely fiscally conservative, but understands the need for government spending when it benefits most of us at large?” – Mike Morrato, Facebook
5. The number of non-affiliated voters in Oregon just reached half a million.
Being truly independent is simply a thought process.Steve Cox
7. The argument that independent voters are a myth is rooted in the belief that when asked about party preference, these voters will admit to preferring one party or another. This assumption ignores that in the 28 states with closed or semi-closed primaries, Independents have no choice but to identify with one party if they want to exercise their fundamental right to vote in the primary election.
9. Independent voters exceed party registration in 5 key states.
10. While independents can lean towards one party, they are much more likely to switch their preferences over time. Third Way released analysis on an ANES study that followed the same voters over 3 successive elections and found that “Independent Leaners were significantly more likely to switch their party identification than were those who described themselves as Democrats or Republicans.”
11. Example: “In 2008 I voted for McCain in 2012 I voted for Obama. I voted that way because I believed at the time I voted I was voting for the best candidate.” – Melissa Ruede, Facebook
Independent voters are more diverse in age, race, gender and income than Republican and Democratic voters.Washington Post
13. The premise of the argument “Independent Voters are a myth” is grounded in polling information, but independents by definition cannot be grouped. Researchers, pollsters, and political scientists try to define and group the “center” or “independent voter,” because that’s their job, but “independent voters are more diverse in age, race, gender and income than Republican and Democratic voters.”
15. “As the parties are drawn to the extremes, more and more moderates are left with no party with which to identify. Perhaps at one time they could have made this assertion, but certainly not in today’s political climate.” – Erik McCormick, Facebookcomprise about 37 percent of all registered voters in Maine.
17. “Being truly independent is simply a thought process. It’s not about voting only for independent candidates, it’s about judging for yourself – without bias – which candidate best suits the times in which we’re living.” – Steve Cox, Facebook
18. Voters who vote based on a candidate’s voting record, not party affiliation, are not a myth.
19. “The politicos are afraid of independents because we don’t accept everything that a particular party dictates. We tend to vote for the person and and we are careful about what issues they prioritize. We tend to stay in the middle, neither too far right or left.” – Sylvia Rinell, Facebook
Independents are much more likely to switch their preferences over time.Third Way
21. “Then I guess the ‘swing vote’ is a myth too? So next election it will be a myth as to why whoever was elected? It’s not partisanship, it’s being educated on the bigger picture.” – Kristin Wiliamson, Facebook
22. A common misconception is that “real” independent voters must vote for independent candidates. This misrepresents what it means to be an independent-minded voter. The defining element of an independent voter is not that he or she votes for independent candidates, but rather that he or she is not confined to one party’s ideology. Their decisions are not rooted in partisan labels, but are constructed based on research and can lead these voters to support Republican, Democratic, or Third Party candidates.
23. “My positions are not based on the ideologies of political parties. They are based on a longing for effective and decent solutions to the problems faced by the American people.” – Malaki Seku-Amen, Facebook
24. Over 52 percent of Massachusetts voters are independent and unaffiliated.
25. “What do you call someone who understand and agrees with social programs but wants them reformed, streamlined and certainly limited in scope?” – Mike Morrato, Facebook
My positions are not based on the ideologies of political parties.Malaki Seku-Amen
27. But not all independents want a third party. “Some of them think we do need a third- or multi-party system and consistently vote for outsider and third-party candidates, while others accept that this is a two-party nation,” the Washington Post argues.
28. Non-affiliated and undeclared voters consist of 53 percent of the electorate in Alaska.
30. It is unreasonable to expect those who self-identify as independent voters to be completely void of partisanship when the system they are trying to participate in is more partisan than ever.
So stop trying to group independent voters into defined categories so you can “poll” them. The reason voters are increasingly leaving the two parties is because their beliefs do not neatly fit into one party’s platform or another. That doesn’t mean independent voters — those who vote based on issues not affiliation — don’t exist.