Independents Are Mostly Partisans, Chapter Gazillion

Here are a couple graphs for the next time you hear that the “independents are the largest group of American voters” and some species of “to appeal to this vast number of independents you have to take moderate positions.”  Graphs are courtesy of the new Pew Center report (p.28 and 98 of the pdf):

First, most independents lean toward a party:

You can see that only 12% of respondents did not identify with or lean toward a party in the most recent survey.

Second, independents who lean toward a party have not differed much from partisans on key political values:

I’m sorry to repeat myself, but it seems to be necessary.

8 Responses to Independents Are Mostly Partisans, Chapter Gazillion

  1. storrente June 4, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    This should be a hot one at the next political-science-and-the-media panel at APSA or ISA or wherever. Call it the “Here it is on a Platter” panel, perhaps.

  2. Josh June 4, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    I wonder whether the increase is related to the fact that we call them “independent” rather than “unenrolled” or something less sexy.

  3. Stefan June 4, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    Why would someone say “to appeal to this vast number of independents you have to take moderate positions?” Being an independent indicates nothing about one’s ideology or political values other than an independent doesn’t want to be affiliated with a political party. After the debacles in Congress since 2011, I can understand why an increasing percentage of people would rather not identify with one of the two major parties.

  4. Peter Hovde June 5, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    So is most of the volatility in midterm elections the result of asymmetric mobilization among “leaner” independents, as well as base voters, rather than actual vote-switching?

    • John Sides June 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

      Here’s some research that speaks to the broad question about mobilization vs. vote-switching:

      • Peter Hovde June 6, 2012 at 11:56 am #

        Thanks-interesting, though ambiguous results.

        • John Sides June 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

          That’s true. It’s hard to get data that are good enough to separate these two processes cleanly.

  5. Eric Titus June 6, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    I guess the question from this is whether leaning “independents” are actually distinguishable from Republicans or Democrats in any way. Maybe they are likely to support fewer portions of each party’s platform? (i.e. a lean Democrat may believe in effective government and a social safety net but not care about the environment or equal opportunity?) It looks from these graphs like the answer would be no, in which case independent is really not that relevant a category. I wonder, among non-leaning independents, whether they are actually just as partisan as well?