Home > Partisanship, Political Science, Politics, The Monkey Cage > On Political Independents (i.e. closet partisans)

On Political Independents (i.e. closet partisans)

Few things aggravate me more than pure partisanship. People who only side with the Democrats or Republicans make politics into a football match rather than a governing process to best serve the interests of the nation. However the reality is that even among self-identified “independents” astonishingly few actually are independent. Other than about 10% of the US population most “independents” really act just like partisans. A blog post at The Monkey Cage fills us in on what political scientists have known for decades.

The number of pure independents is actually quite small — perhaps 10% or so of the population. And this number has been decreasing, not increasing, since the mid-1970s.

Again, there is really no difference between partisans of either stripe and independent leaners. As far as their views of Obama are concerned, it doesn’t really matter whether you say you’re a Democrat or an independent who leans Democrats, and the same is true on the other side of the aisle. Only “pure” independent appear to have evenly divided attitudes as of November, but, as above, these people are only a very small part of the sample — 7% overall.
The media, as the linked post makes clear, needs to stop acting like pure independents are always consequential in elections. I also have a stronger hope that the media will stop fueling the aggressive partisanship (the endless polling doesn’t help) and just report on issues as objectively as possible. The political horse race, football, or whatever analogy you prefer really cheapens our politics. Once our elected officials get to Washington, Beacon Hill, or wherever could really do us a favor and act like responsible representatives and not feed into the partisanship. Yet I worry that with our cynical media and hyper-partisan reinforcing electoral districts we will continue to polarize politically. We all need to make a conscience (however difficult) effort to not play into the partisan story-line. 
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