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Do Independent Voters Actually Prefer One Party Over the Other?

Independent voters might seem like a daunting obstacle at first glance: they have their own political preferences that might not be able to be generalized, their voting might be unpredictable, and yet you so urgently need them for your campaign to be successful.  But are “independent” voters really all that people make them out to be? According to a recent paper by University of Alabama professor Dr. George Hawley that has been released by Voter Gravity, they are in fact more politically biased than most would think they are.  He writes:

It turns out that most of these so-called independents will admit to preferring one party over the other. The number of true independents is actually small, and always has been. More importantly, these independent “leaners” are often just as partisan as people who immediately admit to supporting a political party. In fact, they may be more dedicated to their party.

As such, it is important to understand the actual voting patterns from previous elections as well as other geographic or social data that might indicate how an independant might vote. This data can be found researched and ready to go in tech formats on the market from groups like Voter Gravity.  Is this data really important for determining who to target?  Dr. Hawley continues:

Affiliating with a party is one of the most important predictors of vote choice, but many of those who affiliate with the opposing party can be peeled away. Hillygus and Shields describe a category within the electorate called “persuadable voters.” These voters typically describe themselves as members of a political party, but they disagree with that party on one or more very important issue. Without a push, this issue is not likely going to sway their standing decision to vote for a particular party. However, if a campaign pushes that issue, either through a targeted message or more generally, such voters can be persuaded to abandon their party on Election Day.

Thus we can see that identifying and targeting independent voters will be critical to achieving success in your campaign. Check out Dr. Hawley’s full report here.