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Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

10 Signs That Confirm You Are an Independent Voter

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Created: 07 February, 2024
8 min read

1. You See the Legitimacy of Opposing Views

Voters have become accustomed to the simple red-versus-blue, liberal-versus-conservative goal posts that have been set up by the drivers of American politics. Hyper-polarization has reached such extremes that no matter the position, the "other side" is always wrong, evil, and brainwashed.

Being independent is a mindset. It does not mean a person lacks ideology or that they have to be "neutral" or "moderate." It means being grown up enough to think critically and for oneself. It means a person is willing to listen to opposing views and is humble enough to acknowledge they could learn something from someone with whom they disagree.

2. Partisans Will Try to Force You into a "Liberal" or "Conservative" Box

Again, being independent does not mean lacking ideology. There can be independent-minded conservatives, liberals, libertarians, socialists, progressives, etc. An independent voter does not define themselves solely by ideological preferences.

When an independent voter is open to listening to opposing viewpoints and adjusting their own views when presented with facts that conflict with a previously held belief, the response from many partisans is that they are secretly a "[insert opposing party or ideology]."

If Republicans accuse a person of being "liberal," and Democrats accuse the same person of being "conservative," that person knows they are on the right track to being an independent voter. The authors and editors at the Independent Voter Network know this all too well.

READ MORE: The Independent Voter Network (IVN) - Who "We" Are

3. You See Hypocrisy Coming from Both Parties

After decades of watching the White House and Congress switch back and forth between majorities of both major parties, independent voters see that despite statements of ideological principle that come from candidates and leaders of both major parties, the only thing Republicans and Democrats care about is winning.

For example:

The Democratic Party will make protecting democracy a central focus of their presidential campaign, but then deny competition, debate, and rebuke any party member who wants to put the Democratic nomination up to voters -- even Democratic voters. The party will change its rules to render voters meaningless when it suits their interests.

The Republican Party says it is the party of small government and states' rights, and yet when it comes to states making their own decisions on a myriad of issues the argument for state and local government autonomy only goes as far as it serves the parties' interests. And with all the talk of cutting government waste, it turns out to be all talk for the campaign trail. 

4. You See How Both Parties Are Alike

The national public discourse is dominated by Republican versus Democrat, right versus left, red versus blue. And yet, when an independent voter looks closely at how the Republican and Democratic Parties approach elections and governance, they start to see shared ideas and similarities.

Both sides feel entitled to votes and control over the electoral process. Both sides do everything they can to outright eliminate competition -- both for voters and from independent and third-party options. Both sides squash debate when it's convenient for them. Both sides believe the system should serve their interests above the needs of voters.

LEARN MORE: 10 Ways Both Parties Are Destroying Democracy

5. You Understand the Need for Broad, Nonpartisan Systemic Election Reform

Most voters are unhappy with the current state of US politics and elections -- and the many ways both parties are similar point to the underlying factors why elections have failed voters. Party members shaped electoral rules for their benefit, not the benefit of voters.

It starts with primary elections which in most cases are the most critical stages of the elections process. The parties are well-aware of how important primary elections are. They use them as weapons against their own members to keep candidates in line.

Primaries initially were forced on parties to eliminate deals struck in the "smoke-filled backrooms" of old. However, since party-loyal elected officials made the rules that govern elections, they were able to implement primary systems they controlled.

The parties decide whose vote matters, and for half the country that identifies and/or registers as independent -- these voters are told to sit on the sidelines or are otherwise treated as second-class voters who have a greater burden levied on them to get an equal and meaningful say in elections.

It's no wonder that so many voters support moving to a nonpartisan process that levels the playing field for all voters. California voters approved the state's nonpartisan top-two primary system in 2010. Alaska voters approved a nonpartisan top-four system in 2020. Nevada voters are one election away from adopting a top-five system. 

Meanwhile, the parties are increasing their efforts to close primaries or keep them closed in states like Louisiana (which had a nonpartisan system for all elections), Colorado, West Virginia, and more. And while one party may make the initial move to close the primaries, the effort tends to be supported by both sides. 

There is, of course, no silver bullet to creating fairer, more accountable elections. It may start with the primaries, but it doesn't end there. The top-four system in Alaska, for example, was combined with ranked choice voting in the general election to ensure better choice and a majority winner.

Reform is needed to how electoral districts are drawn, to ballot access and campaign finance rules that make it all but impossible for independent and third-party competition to emerge, to debates that should serve as an important medium for public discourse, and many other rules the parties use to twist elections to their benefit. 

6. You Understand What Competition in Elections Truly Means

When people say more competition is needed in elections, this doesn't just mean opening the door for candidates outside the Republican and Democratic Parties. The system should treat these candidates fairly and give them the same equal treatment as candidates of the major parties.

But true competition in elections means changing the incentives of the electoral system to compete for voters -- something the current system doesn't do. Democrats have their voters. Republicans have their voters. But neither side has an incentive to branch out or compete for voters outside their bases.

The message the parties send out is not what they can do to earn votes, but "are you still with us?" The goal of nonpartisan election reform is to change the incentives to increase competition and accountability for voters. 

7. You Find Yourself Unrepresented in Government and in Elections

Survey after survey find that most voters do not feel represented in government, and this lack of representation stems from the incentives public officials have to put the interests of their party above the needs of voters. Candidates are told to toe the party line, or else.

But most voters want elected officials to work together. They want candidates who are willing to reach across the aisle and create nuanced and long-lasting solutions to the biggest issues facing the country -- something that never happens now.

It is no surprise voters feel unrepresented. The system was rigged against them. 

The situation is worse for independent voters because, despite it being well known that independents ultimately decide the nation's biggest elections, they are regularly ignored and treated as if they don't exist.

8. You Get Your News and Information from a Variety of Sources

The national media exists under the umbrella of the two-party duopoly. Every political story is shaped around the Republican vs Democrat narrative, and as such, these outlets will serve as an echo chamber for one side or the other.

MSNBC, for example, caters more to progressives and Democrats, while Fox News caters to conservatives and Republicans. It is no surprise to hear from a Republican who only watches Fox News for their information or a Democrat who only watches MSNBC -- or maybe CNN.

An independent voter will get their information from a variety of sources. They will see what a story from one news outlet is lacking due to the preferred bias of the source and are willing to branch out to get the complete picture.

9. You Are Willing to Look into The Positions of All Candidates Running in an Election

The narrative from partisan pundits and talking heads in the media is that independent voters are a myth because in the end they will regularly choose one side or the other.  Of course they do. They are given only two choices under a duopolistic political system.

It would be like if the only soda options available to consumers were Coke and Pepsi, who also happen to make all of their industry's regulations, and someone said, "At the end of the day, consumers say they want more choice, but they will still regularly choose one brand or the other." 

Independent voters may regularly prefer to vote for one side or the other, but they are willing to hear what all candidates have to say and factor that into their decision-making.

10. Statistically Speaking, You Probably Already Are an Independent Voter

Over the last decade, the percentage of Americans that say they identify as independent has fallen between 40% and 50%, according to Gallup. The percentage went as high as 50% in April 2023. The year's average tied a record-high set in 2014, which bucked a historic trend going into a presidential election cycle. 

Partisan pundits will chalk this up to voters wanting to be trendy or different, so they say they identify as independent -- but the rise in independent voters is supported by voter registration numbers in states that register voters by party affiliation (many of these states use closed or semi-closed partisan primaries).

In half the states that register voters by party, independent voters outnumber members of at least one of the two major parties. However, in most of the top 10 states for independent voter registration, independents outnumber registered members of both major parties. So, statistically speaking, anyone reading this is likely already an independent voter.

Photo Credit: Vlad Hilitanu / Unsplash