Election 2012

Percentage of Independents Reaches an All-Time High


As we keep telling you,

Still, I'm always irritated by non-zero-based graphs….

Gallup has the latest:

As mentioned

The percentage of Americans identifying as political independents increased in 2011, as is common in a non-election year, although the 40% who did so is the highest Gallup has measured, by one percentage point. More Americans continue to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, 31% to 27%.

These results are based on more than 20,000 interviews conducted in 20 separate Gallup polls in 2011. Gallup has computed annual averages of party identification since 1988, when it began regularly conducting interviews by telephone. The prior high percentage of independents was 39% in 1995 and 2007.

Gallup records from 1951-1988—based on face-to-face interviewing—indicate that the percentage of independents was generally in the low 30% range during those years, suggesting that the proportion of independents in 2011 was the largest in at least 60 years.

Looking at the trend lines since 2008 in particular, it's nothing short of amazing that Republicans can convert Democratic stewardship of a lousy economy into an even worse market share. Every defection from two-party membership makes politics less stable, and more susceptible to outsider candidates and issues that run counter to the unloved status quo. Though Gallup also cautions in the piece that pre-election-year independent numbers typically come down a notch in presidential years.

More analysis of the subject can be found in The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America.

NEXT: ObamaCare's Regulations: Overstate the Benefits, Understate the Costs

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  1. Matt, I have to disagree about graphs where the x axis fails to intercept the y axis at zero. If you are examining slight changes about a constant level, for instance a change in unemployment from 9.1% to 8.6%, showing the entirety of the non-active range from 8% to 0% will make the relative changes in the active range less apparent. Focusing in on the range where changes are actually occurring can be a very useful way to illustrate changes in the data in a way that is more apparent to the graph viewers.

    1. I hear you, I hear you. It still feels unclean.

      1. For a magazine called “reason”…

        1. Drink!

      2. The thing is about graphs is that, as a rule, they aren’t of much value for the actual analysis. Whether a conclusion is valid or not from the data has absolutely nothing to do with how you choose to draw the graph.

        As such the graph is just designed to convey information in the data to the general public. Whether the graph is misleading or not depends on whether the picture the graph draws represents what the underlying data is saying. In this case I believe it does that: the growth of people identifying as independents continues to increase at the expense of the two major parties.

        1. The thing is about graphs is that, as a rule, they aren’t of much value for the actual analysis.

          Spreadsheet facist!

          1. Yes, well I suppose there’s no point in trying to deny it…

        2. Like, if you were doing a graph of baseball team winning percentage, you might start at .250 or something?

          1. Except if it’s the Astros, then start a little lower.

            If it’s the Cubs you can shrink the graph down to between .475 to .525 for every year.

            And if it’s the Angels, the graph scale is stipulated in Pujols’ new contract.

        3. Graphs are how scientists and engineers prefer to lie. It differentiates them from laywers and politicians who prefer to shake your hand, grin from ear to ear, and lie directly to your face.

          1. So you’re saying that scientists and engineers prefer math to discourse?

            What a shocking statement.

            I guess businessmen prefer to lie with memos and advertisements? And priests prefer to lie with prayers and songs?

  2. It would have been nice of Gallup to have indicated that the (100 – 41 – 31 -27 = 2) percent not covered breaks down to 1.5% Greens and 0.5% Libertarian.


    1. Its probably covred by the “stabbed pollster and ran off” party.

  3. Could there be any bigger indication that the two-party system is failing?

    1. See also: state of the US Nation in toto…

    2. Newt Barack Romney.


      Mitt Hussein Gingrich.


      Barack Walker Obama

      (Hard to tell them apart.)

      1. Oh, you wait Aresen. It’s gonna get goddamn ugly here in the next 11 months. Mittens will be “The Next Libertarian Savior” and anyone who disagrees(by voting for a candidate they actually agree with) will be branded traitors to the cause.

        If you don’t believe me go check out the knob slobbering Scott Brown threads of yesteryear.

        1. *shrug*

          In 2008, there was a pretty even split here about preferring Barry to Mr. Depends.

          Though I obviously can’t vote, I preferred BHO, based on what I knew at the time. (And, frankly, given McCain’s track record since – he’s endorsed some pretty nasty stuff – I doubt he would have been any better.)

          1. I’m just sayin’ that if Gary Johnson, the Libertarian, candidate can’t get any coverage here I’m cancelling my (non-existent) subscription.

    3. Could there be any bigger indication that the two-party system is failing?

      As long as the positions of power are occupied exclusively by members of the two party system, I don’t see how it is failing.

      1. As long as the positions of power are occupied exclusively by members of the two party system, I don’t see how it is failing.


      2. It’s obviously failing if the people no longer subscribe to either party’s platform- think about it for a minute.

  4. All I wanted was a sweet distraction for a term or two…

    The number of independents will have to come down by voters rushing toward Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. (Well, maybe not rushing. Probably reluctantly shuffling.)

  5. So, what I gather from this is that it’s more likely Jesse Ventura could be elected President than a few years.

    Is that about the size of it?

    1. Ross Perot is still kickin’; the old fuck.

  6. Also:

    Tebow (47%) > Independents (40%)

  7. I also hope this means that a 3rd pty candidate may have a fighting chance these days, as opposed to 20 years ago. Although, even though the people look like they want a 3rd pty candidate, that doesn’t necessarily translate into the “great parties” allowing a 3rd pty into the debate.

    1. Pepsi products or Coke products . . those are your only two choices

      1. RC, the Perot of colas.

    2. Maybe in 2016. Obama wins re-election, Republicans take the House and hold the Senate, and when the crapola hits the fan both parties may be so thoroughly discredited to let a third party rise up.


      1. Call me cynical, but I think 2016 is too late to turn this country around. Obamacare will have quite a constituency by then.

        1. You may be right about that.

  8. Republicans lost votes because the GOP took a hard right in 2009. They didn’t have much choice, as sticking with Bush style moderate conservatism was untenable both because of the failure of Bush’s policies and because Obama took moderate positions on many issues. That democratic turn to the (relative) right also explains their loss of vote share as radical liberals turn to 3rd parties.

    1. so what you’re saying is both parties are slicing. Time to turn the club head in a little.

    2. Ummm, republicans gained seats in ’10.

      1. You are right, of course.

        But consider that they gained seats while overall voter turnout dropped significantly from 2008. This Gallup poll is asking all potential voters about their political identification, not which are likely to actually show up and vote.

  9. Looking at the trend lines since 2008 in particular, it’s nothing short of amazing that Republicans can convert Democratic stewardship of a lousy economy into an even worse market share.

    At this point, Obama could publicly announce his intention to give the entire American nuclear arsenal to Kim Jong Eun as a “Welcome to power!” gift, and sign legislation making it legal for TSAgents (with valid hunting licenses, natch) to shoot American airline passengers for sport, and the Republicans will STILL manage to field a candidate who makes Obama look like the lesser of two evils.

    1. The evil of two lessers.

    2. “Race to the Bottom”, like “Zero-Sum Game” is a term that politicians have erroneously applied to economics, because they have so much experience with the phenomenon in their own careers.

  10. So why is Bill Daley quiting the White House in January 2012?

    1. Better to be a big thug in a small pond…

      1. I was wondering if a career politician was reading the tea leaves and decided “Oh Shit!” and then bailed out.

        1. Quitting didn’t work out for Palin.

  11. Independents: Right wingers who were embarassed by Dubya, but continue bashing democrats at any turn.

    1. So, it sounds like you think independents show excellent judgment and have a sterling record.

  12. Obviously I agree with Welch and Gillespie on issues like airline deregulation, but who cares about the growing fraction of independents? It’s a robust social science finding that most independents are actually rather reliable partisan voters. On the contrary to the inference made in the discussion, the past generation has seen a rise in the nominal identification of independents, but greater practical polarization. There’s no there, there.


    1. Perhaps an independent is a D or R ashamed of his political preference so keeps it in the ballot box rather than announcing it to the public.

  13. A lot of Republicans are claiming to be independents because they don’t want to be thought of a s stupid or racist.

    1. I don’t think that Republicans are stupid or racist. I think that the Republican party has made a lot of appeals to stupidity and racism, however. Clearly Democrats have too, but when 95% of blacks and majorities of every other non-white group vote D, that shit don’t stick.

  14. Sounds like ap lan to me dude. Wow.


  15. The more moderates that leave the party (R or D), the more that leaves the crazies to make decisions for the party. That’s why we get left with the lesser of two evils choice. I say this of course as someone who bailed ship and is now an Independent.

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