New Psychological Insights Into Independent Voting

Posted by & filed under 2012 Election, An Independent Viewpoint, Controlled by Parties, Role of Independent Voters, Swing Voters, The IVA Angle, We Are Independents



Just how “independent” are independent voters? It’s a subject that academia and pundits have frequently broken down before (see: The “Myth” of the Independent Voter).

For the Huffington Post, Professor Sam Sommers of Tufts University looked into the newest research on independent voters to explain what it means for the age old question that concerns everyone remotely involved in politics during the close 2012 election: WWID (What Would Independents Do)?

“Pick your election topic du jour — a vice presidential selection, new campaign ads, debate performance — and the big question of the day inevitably becomes WWID? As in, what will independents do? How might these unaffiliated and presumably more objective voters react to the nominee, controversy, statement, or gaffe?”

But are independent voters really “more objective” than partisans, as we’d like to think? The most recent research shows mixed results:

“New research just published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that Independents may not be quite as independent as they claim they are. Across a series of studies, researchers at the University of Virginia presented respondents with different policies to evaluate and examined the extent to which political affiliation colored their perceptions…

When Independents were asked to what extent their policy evaluations in the study were driven by the party that had proposed it, 62 percent said not at all (compared to rates of 37 percent among Democrats and 44 percent among Republicans)…”


“But the Independents were influenced by party affiliation. It’s just that this influence wasn’t something they were consciously aware of… You see, in addition to simply asking respondents about their political affiliation, the researchers also had participants in these studies complete a measure of unconscious or implicit political identity…

Those self-described Independents who, according to the test, implicitly identify with Democrats? They gave higher ratings to a policy when they had been told it was proposed by the Democrats. And the implicit Republican Independents did much the same, preferring the policy when they believed it was a Republican proposal…

In short, Independents aren’t as Independent as they think they are.”

This seems to be a fair critique, but in a way, it ignores the forest for the trees. The problem with the “science” and categorizing independents is that independent voters aren’t simply centrists or moderates. We’re distributed across the entire spectrum of political ideology, and here at Independent Voters of America, we don’t believe you have to subscribe to one unified “independent” ideology to belong.

After all, we don’t need another united party platform for independent voters – look where the two we already have got us today!


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3 Responses

  1. Robert B. Winn August 22, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    As long as independent voters cannot run for office, party promoters can portray them as being for parties, but they are not. As long as all they have to vote for are party candidates, they will appear to party promoters like party members according to their support or opposition to party issues. But the real issue for independent voters is ballot access, which they had until about the 1970′s, when party politicians started passing state election laws designed to keep independent voters from being candidates for office. Where political party politicians have been less successful is in their efforts to stop independent voter registration. Their best efforts in that regard have only served to increase the number of independent voters, who have now reached a percentage of voters that cannot be stopped. Independent voters will gain ballot access and will start becoming candidates for office. If for no other reason, it will happen because independent voters will soon outnumber all political party members in the United States. It will be impossible for political parties to keep independent voters from running for public office the way they are doing now.

  2. Jim Hunt August 23, 2012 at 7:16 am

    The best advice for us is to “stay the course”. We represent the new colonist is revolution, we just don’t have France to help us with guns and ammunition. We will prevail!

    • Richard Winger August 26, 2012 at 10:30 am

      Every state lets independent candidates run for office. In 2010, independent candidates were elected to state or federal office in ten states, the most in any election year since 1934.


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