A highly interesting study was conducted by The Washington Post in collaboration with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University, about the infamous group of voters called “Independents.” Who are they? What do they believe? Are they all the same? The results:
The new survey underscores the Republican Party’s problems heading into 2008. Fueled by dissatisfaction with the president and opposition to the Iraq war, independents continue to lean heavily toward the Democrats. Two-thirds said the war is not worth fighting, three in five said they think the United States cannot stabilize Iraq, and three in five believed that the campaign against terrorism can succeed without a clear victory in Iraq.
The power of independents could also be felt in other ways next year. The survey found frustration with political combat in Washington and widespread skepticism toward the major parties — perhaps enough to provide the spark for an independent candidacy by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
Seventy-seven percent of independents said they would seriously consider an independent presidential candidate, and a majority said they would consider supporting Bloomberg, whose recent shift in party registration from Republican to unaffiliated stoked speculation about a possible run in 2008…
The survey data established five categories of independents: closet partisans on the left and right; ticket-splitters in the middle; those disillusioned with the system but still active politically; ideological straddlers whose positions on issues draw from both left and right; and a final group whose members are mostly disengaged from politics.
The ‘Independent’ field:
– Disguised Partisans: 24%. Independents in name only (IINO if you wish)
– Disengaged: 24%.
– Deliberators: 18%. Quintessential swing voters. Happy with the two-party system, Republican target.
– Disillusioned: 18%. Angry and active.
– Dislocated: 16%. Ideological straddlers – socially liberal, fiscally conservative.
It is interesting to note that there are more Independents than Republicans out there these days. This trend is expected to continue. Furthermore, although Independents come from all age, income and education groups, the far majority of Independents is male. Also: independents are more secular than the overall electorate.
Although the Independent vote is normally split between Republicans and Democrats, this changed in 2006 when 57% of Independents voted for the Democrats, while only 39% voted for Republicans. This is “the largest margin either party has received from independents in a congressional election since national exit polls began measuring the House vote in 1976.” The reason: Independents are fed up with Bush. 48% of Independents consider Bush to be the worst modern president (I agree with that).
Besides that, they are also not very happy with the American economy: whereas 63% of Republicans consider the American economy to be “good or excellent,” only 35% of Independents agree. The result: 55% of Independents view the Democrats favorably and only 41% thinks positively about the Republican Party.
The only issue on which Independents favor Republicans is terrorism. Regarding “Iraq, health care, global warming, social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, corruption in government, managing the federal government, and dealing with the deficit,” Independents side with the Democrats. Same goes, just but still, for illegal immigration, taxes and the economy.
Most importantly: Independents are completely fed up with American politics. 59% “described themselves as pessimistic about American politics, compared with 49 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of Republicans. Just 23 percent called themselves proud; 56 percent said they are angry.” What, in the end, causes Independents to vote for someone, is the candidate, not the party the person belongs to (which makes sense of course).
Interestingly enough, although Hillary Clinton is a highly polarizing figure among Independents, they are least drawn to a Gore candidacy. They think highly of Giuliani, McCain, Obama and Edwards. They dislike, even greatly dislike, Thompson, Romney and… Newt Gingrich: 66% of Independents say that they would never vote for the Newt.
Read the rest at the Washington Post, it really is a fascinating read.
ALSO READ TMV’s Joe Gandelman’s analysis of this study and another provocative article on independent voters HERE.