Every campaign strategist worth their salt will tell you that you never need to win the “other side”: you only need to keep yours and convince the independent vote. While much research and advice has been given on this subject, one thing remains: according to an April 7, 2015 Pew Research study, voters who identify as independent are at an all time high:
“For more than 70 years, with few exceptions, more Americans have identified as Democrats than Republicans. But the share of independents, which surpassed the percentages of either Democrats or Republicans several years ago, continues to increase. Currently, 39% Americans identify as independents, 32% as Democrats and 23% as Republicans. This is the highest percentage of independents in more than 75 years of public opinion polling.”
This will come as a surprise to many who are informed about current political events, but anyone who remembers any political news from, in particular, the last four years will have no trouble in seeing why. Americans, and in particular millennials, are tired of partisan divides: government shutdowns, ugly political campaigns, and accusations of illegal activities at all levels are enough to drive anyone angry with the current political establishment. Furthermore, in today’s a la carte culture, fewer people are willing to put themselves under the banner of a single party. As a result, more voters are identifying as independent.
Pew Research also did a study on where the political divides by party exist. Where do the voters of tomorrow (i.e. the young, minority voters) line up? They line up more in the independent bloc then not. If the political institutions of today fail to recognize and adapt, elections will continue to shift to winning voters instead of retaining them.
For more insight on independents and their role in elections today, download “Political Independents: Who They Are and What Impact They Have on Politics Today” by University of Alabama professor Dr. George Hawley, released by Voter Gravity.