The Growing Power Of Independents
An Unpredictable Voting Bloc
Today, about 40% of Americans identify themselves as "independent" voters—that's the highest level since pollsters began identifying voter preferences about 75 years ago. And, as pointed out by Thom Reilly of Arizona State University, their unpredictability makes independent voters increasingly powerful in U.S. politics.
For example, while most pundits thought independents would generate a "red wave" in 2022—propelling Republicans to solid control of the House and perhaps the Senate—the result was a marginal House "win" for the GOP. While it's still unclear exactly why this happened, it appears that independent voters were troubled by the overturning of Roe v. Wade and moved away from Republican candidates as a result. In any case, we know for certain that independents broke for Democrats over Republicans by at least a 2-point margin. No one saw that coming.
Research shows that independent voters are not merely "closet" Republicans or Democrats—but are actually developing their own political culture that rejects the increasingly extreme postures of the two main parties. If this is true, it could signal a dramatic reconfiguration of the American political landscape. Independents seem to base their voting decisions on individual candidates and specific public policy issues—not knee-jerk partisan messaging.
Pollsters need to start treating independent voters as their own legitimate political entities and not mere "purple" anomalies of a more and more irrelevant two-party system. Only when we truly understand their nature can we accurately "predict" how they will impact elections.
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