Obama Letdown Watch
This is important for a whole lot of reasons. For one thing, the idea that “independents” are a third force in politics positioned in some moderate, bipartisan space equidistant from the two parties is entirely wrong.Who knew this? Karl Rove, for one, a factor that played heavily into the way the Bush Administration played politics :
In late 2000, even as the result of the presidential election was still being contested in court, George W. Bush’s chief pollster Matt Dowd was writing a memo for Rove that would reach a surprising conclusion. Based on a detailed examination of poll data from the previous two decades, Dowd’s memo argued that the percentage of swing voters had shrunk to a tiny fraction of the electorate. Most self-described “independent” voters “are independent in name only,” Dowd told me in an interview describing his memo. “Seventy-five percent of independents vote straight ticket” for one party or the other. Once such independents are reclassified as Democrats or Republicans, a key trend emerges: Between 1980 and 2000, the percentage of true swing voters fell from a very substantial 24 percent of the electorate to just 6 percent. In other words, the center was literally disappearing. Which meant that, instead of having every incentive to govern as “a uniter, not a divider,” Bush now had every reason to govern via polarization.
The myth of the independent voter…
The Myth of the Independent Voter
Bruce E. Keith, David B. Magleby, Candice J. Nelson, Elizabeth Orr, Mark C. Westlye, and Raymond E. Wolfinger
Based on the most up-to-date 1990 data, The Myth of the Independent Voter provides a roadmap of the political arena for the general reader and scholar alike. Debunking conventional wisdom about voting patterns and allaying recent concerns about electoral stability and possible third party movements, the authors uncover faulty polling practices that have resulted in a skewed sense of the American voting population.
Demonstrating that most of what has been written about Independents for more than thirty years is myth, this challenging book offers a trenchant new understanding of the party system, voting behavior, and public opinion.
John Sides is annoyed at yet another outbreak of "independent" fever: the obsession of political pundits and analysts with the supposedly growing and influential group of nonpartisan independents in the electorate. So today he links to a post on the subject that he wrote a few months ago:
Here is the problem: Most independents are closet partisans. This has been well-known in political science since at least 1992, with the publication of The Myth of the Independent Voter (here).
When asked a follow-up question, the vast majority of independents state that they lean toward a political party. They are the “independent leaners.”....The significance of independent leaners is this: they act like partisans. Here is the percent of partisans and independent leaners voting for the presidential candidate of their party. There is very little difference between independent leaners and weak partisans. Approximately 75% of independent leaners are loyal partisans.
Bottom line: only about 10% of voters are true independents, and that number hasn't changed much over the past three decades. Independents matter, but they don't matter nearly as much as pundit mythology would have you believe.
The Myth of the Independent Voter
Is further crushed by John Sides, who finds the vast majority of independent voters to be loyal partisans, and true independents to make up about 7% of the electorate.