What DO We Know About Independents?

Posted by & filed under 2012 Election, In the Press, Myth of Independent Voters, Political Polls, Role of Independent Voters, We Are Independents, Young Voters

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Thanks to Gina McGalliard of Truth-Out.org for this excellent article published yesterday – “What Do We Know About Independent Voters?”

The full piece includes the perspective of Independent Voters of America founder Bill Hillsman, as well as author Linda Killian who recently wrote  ”The Swing Vote: The Untapped Power of Independents.” Four important themes we’ve touched on continuously in our coverage of issues pertinent to independents are covered in depth. Here’s some select quotes, but we recommend you give the entire piece a thorough read.

1. Growing numbers of registered independents

“We’ve got a government with very little accountability; we’ve got a government with no productivity; and we’ve got an increase in partisanship on both sides, which means they become less accountable and they do even less,” says Bill Hillsman of Independent Voters of America on why more and more voters are turning away from the two major parties. “So, I think there’s good reason for a lot of taxpayers to be frustrated right now.”

2. The wide ideological spectrum of independents

In keeping with the idea that political views often defy easy categorization, Independent Voters of America now has an online quiz for voters. “[We're trying] to map independent voters’ thinking, issues, [and] preferences in more of a three-dimensional way than just a left-right continuum or a conservative-liberal continuum,” says Hillsman, who also noted that independent voters tend to be more prevalent among those under 40, entrepreneurs and those who work in the tech sector. “And the example I use very often is libertarians. Democrats think libertarians are very conservative because, by and large, fiscally they are very conservative. Republicans think they’re total liberal whack jobs because they don’t believe in drug laws,” says Hillsman. “They don’t believe in a lot of restrictions on personal freedoms, etcetera. So, where do you put those people?”

3. Independents – informed or apathetic?

In doing research for her book, Killian likewise found independent voters were often quite knowledgeable about current affairs. “I was going to a lot of political events in my four [swing] states. I was holding focus groups; I was going to college campuses; I was making phone calls – I found a lot of well-informed, engaged independents,” she says. “Being dissatisfied with both parties doesn’t mean you’re not engaged and you don’t pay attention.”

4. Existence in the two party system

With independents making up a percentage of the electorate comparable to those who align with major parties, this might change in the future. “Almost any credible independent candidate starts with 15 to 25 percent of the vote these days in almost any state,” says Hillsman, who pointed to the example of independent candidate Kinky Friedman [www.kinkyfriedman.com]‘s run for governor of Texas, which garnered substantial support in what is considered solidly Republican territory. “And whether that shrinks or rises to the degree that say, Jesse Ventura did in 1998 depends a lot on the campaign itself [and] fundraising.”

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