We’ve been doing a series of studies at Voter Gravity on a variety of topics, from GOTV to social media to mail. I am biased and found them all interesting, but the newest one on independent voters is probably the best so far. I’m not going to tell you about everything inside the study, but some of the highlights are below:
The number of self-described independents is increasing, and this growth is at the GOP’s expense.
According to a Gallup poll released in January 2014, the number of political independents in the United States is at a record high. Specifically, the percentage of Americans who identify as independent is 42 percent, the highest percentage since Gallup began asking this question in the 1980s. Most of that growth was at the expense of Republican identification, which is now around 25 percent of Americans, down from 34 percent in 2004
In 2012, the GOP improved its performance among independents, but it needs to do better.
We see immediately that Romney performed reasonably well among self-described independents in 2012, earning a higher share than McCain or Bush. In fact, Romney was the first Republican presidential candidate since 1988 to win 50 percent or more of the independent vote, beating Obama among independents by 5 points and still losing the election by roughly 4 points.
Partisans are your most reliable voters, but many independents are closet partisans.
While the number of people who called themselves political independents is large and growing quickly, the number of people who behaved like genuine independents is not. Independents that lean toward the Democratic Party are more like partisan Democrats, but independents that lean toward the Republican Party are similar to pure independents.
I encourage you to read the full report here to discover what independents actually believe, how closely they pay attention to politics, and how they relate to traditional partisan bases. Again, I think you’ll be fascinated by it and come away with a much better idea of who independent voters actually are.