America Has More Independents Than Ever

But don't get too excited.


Joanna Andreasson

In the past few years, a larger share of Americans has opted not to identify as either a Republican or Democrat than at any point since pollsters began regularly asking about party affiliation. In 2015, according to Pew Research Center, some 40 percent of adults in the country self-described as "independents" rather than choosing one of the two major parties. That's up from a low of just 20 percent in 1961.

The percentage of American adults claiming to eschew traditional partisan politics has been inching and skipping upward over the decades, strongly suggesting that, as choices proliferate in most other areas of life, voters have become increasingly disgusted with the Team Red/Team Blue binary. But beware the temptation to extrapolate about electoral outcomes from this trend: It's far from clear an alternative party is poised to benefit at the ballot box.

If you push so-called independents on whether they "lean" toward one party or the other, a vast majority will admit they do. And "in many respects," Pew reported in 2014, "those who lean toward the parties—even if they identify as independent—have attitudes and behaviors that are very similar to those of partisans." In reality, most of those who initially refuse to be affiliated with either party will tend to line up with one side or the other.

Data: Pew Research Center

That is just what we would expect based on "Duverger's Law," the political science maxim that third parties are hobbled by winner-take-all systems. Without proportional representation, voters in countries like the United States have little incentive to cast a ballot for a candidate unless his or her party stands a realistic chance of winning a plurality in their district. Even a strong third-party showing of, say, 20 percent would garner no political power at all. Thus the trope that supporting someone other than a Republican or a Democrat amounts to wasting your vote.

Accordingly, third parties have struggled even as the proportion of Americans calling themselves independents grows. In 2016, Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein together captured less than 5 percent of the electorate, or one-quarter what unaffiliated candidate Ross Perot got in 1992. Yet Pew found the same share of Americans (36 percent) identifying as independents during the two election cycles. We are less partisan than ever, it seems, except at the moment when it counts.

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  1. What good is it being an Independent if you still only have Democrats or Republicans to vote for?

    1. Read a study yesterday that voters are becoming issues voters, not party voters. It’s a slight step in the right direction but just ends up w parties lying about their platforms. Sadly issues voters are still pretty ignorant on the issues they are passionate about.

    2. They’re cowards and one of the reasons why we keep electing worthless twats to our government.

      1. Is that you Brando Straka? Be honest now!?

  2. Is Stephanie the pro-life Reasonoid? I forget.

    1. Yes, she is.

    2. What???? Unrestricted access to abortion care is the second fundamental pillar of Koch / Reason libertarianism, behind only unlimited immigration! WTF are they doing letting someone work here who wants to take away reproductive rights and turn this country into The Handmaid’s Tale? I mean, what’s next ? hire someone who opposes open borders?

      Elizabeth Nolan Brown really needs to sit this young woman down and explain to her the three scientific facts of abortion:

      1. Human life begins at birth.
      2. Fetuses are just clumps of cells, even in the third trimester.
      3. Abortion rights are guaranteed by the US Constitution, as established by the SUPER-PRECEDENT Roe v. Wade.

      1. Sounds like someone is convening an emergency meeting of Libertarians For Statist Womb Management and Libertarians For Big-Government Micromanagement Of Ladypart Clinics.

        What good is being superstitious if fairy tales can’t drive public policy?

        1. Libertarians For Big-Government Micromanagement Of Ladypart Clinics

          In the future, please try to avoid using “ladyparts” and “vagina” interchangeably. After all, many transmen and nonbinary people have vaginas. Associating such anatomical features with womanhood is transphobic.

          1. Daaaaaaamn, Kirkland just got woke-slapped!

          2. Arthur uses the term lady parts because he’s never actually seen what they are is doesn’t have other words for them.

          3. Hilarious. The Rev got called out by OBL.

            1. Classic!

      2. First of all, numbers 1 and 2 have not been established as scientific facts. Regarding number 1, you’re saying that a fetus immediately gains life when it changes location from the womb to the outside world? Science doesn’t support that analysis. With number 2, you could actually say that all human beings are just clumps of cells. Scientifically, cells are living. Number 3 is not scientific, but political, and it is misrepresented as well. Abortion rights are not guaranteed by the constitution per se, but rather by precedent (no such thing as super-precedent). The funny thing about Supreme Court precedent is it can be changed in a moment’s notice by a new case, new Supreme Court, and precedent overturning it. The constitution, however, is much more difficult to change.

        1. >…fetus immediately gains life

          The magic of the Soul providing birth canal.
          .. “Approved for Delivery By Inspector 42”

    3. She is cute, too.

  3. Although the number of “independents” has grown much, and the number of “Republicans” and “Democrats” has decreased, this seems mostly like semantics. At the election level the numbers voting for these things are essentially unchanged.

    Hell, the “third party” organizations had a golden opportunity to actually make a major play on the political stage in 2016 and they squandered it. Not only did they botch the best chance they’ve had in living memory, but the Libertarian Party went on to congratulate themselves on how “well” they did, rather than assessing where they went wrong.

    You had a chance to display leadership, organization, and seriousness to the common man and you failed at every turn. How long until another opportunity like that shows itself again.

    1. Yes. I think what you are seeing is a genuine shift, mostly anomalous in American history, of the great bulk of people shifting to a more transactional view of political parties rather than seeing them as ideologies–saying “I am a Democrat,” or I am a Republican, as though that were a description of political philosophy. This attitude used to be a peculiarity of social scientists and eccentric ideological sophisticates, like 19th century antislavery men, liberals, agrarianists, and other such movements.

      This all happens, however, in the face of a return (as the much-lauded, anomalous mid-20th century centrist consensus continues to dissolve) to greater ideological polarization of both parties and the electorate. The purest form of this is the plummet in Republican affiliation in the late Bush years. Most of these people are hardline conservatives disgusted at the Republican establishment; the Kavanaugh victory was the first moment of the old unity and mutual good feelings all around. The Democrats have been experiencing a similar thing with the Sanderistas.

      I don’t think a centrist (or “some of this side, some of the other” as some libertarians like to bill themselves) party will find these times to be particularly fertile times.

      1. Centrist parties have a hard time surviving once polarization begins. When you have things like the “postwar consensus” where far-right and far-left ideologues get stepped on or ignored, then it’s fine, but when they can speak out and be heard, what happens is the farther out there folks scream louder than anyone else. Couple this with the reality that those who are on the fringes are often a lot more motivated about their politics, and you end up with primaries that tend to cater to the end-spectrum candidates.

        This is in full-bloom in the Democratic Party. Of course, this hasn’t really materialized in the GOP yet, but I think that is coming. The more that every single right wing candidate is slandered as a “Nazi racist xenophobe homophobe antisemite monster” the more likely you are to see the right-wing start to drift more towards the dissident right, as they realize there is no way to make peace with their enemies or have an even remotely reasonable conversation.

        1. “Couple this with the reality that those who are on the fringes are often a lot more motivated about their politics, and you end up with primaries that tend to cater to the end-spectrum candidates.”

          What really tilts the spectrum towards end-spectrum candidates is non-competitive districts. When one party has a substantial-enough edge, the candidate of the dominant party will win the election and the real competition is in the primary stage. In competitive races, winning requires capturing the swing voters in the middle and so the party nominates a moderate to appeal to the swing voters. If it’s non-competitive, there’s no reason to cater to swing voters and so moderates don’t win primary elections, and the extremist represents the district.

          This is a big part of what makes gerrymandering so evil. (Yes, when YOUR side does it, too.)

      2. “Yes. I think what you are seeing is a genuine shift, mostly anomalous in American history, of the great bulk of people shifting to a more transactional view of political parties rather than seeing them as ideologies”

        What I see is that most people have at least some opinions that don’t fit the party-line. Used to be, this sort of thing was tolerated if kept quiet. But there was a trend towards purity and uniformity with the rise of AM talk radio as the driver of conservative politics. You were either with us 100% or you were one of “them” trying to sneak into the big tent. This got on the nerves of the pro-business side of the Party, who may have started to regret that partnership with the religious zealots, even as it delivered them electoral victories. They wanted deregulation and tax cuts a LOT more than they wanted limits on abortion providers.

        Meanwhile, the other side was pretty much a herd of cats the whole time.

  4. Of course, proportional representation gives the parties greater control over who actually holds office as your vote goes to the party. not a particular candidate. The effect of that form makes how politics actually function more partisan.

  5. The week before the 2008 election Obama had plans for Farnham’s Freehold white meat cannibalism and making the stars in the US flag Red–according to Faux News and reliable Republican sources. These sources never mention how Bert Hoover, Reagan and Wehrmacht Bush wrecked the economy with asset forfeiture looting. Hobgoblin fear of the other looters is the only thing the DemoGOP has! The Kleptocracy attacked Ross Perot with character assassination tactics, yet his spoiler votes temporarily broke the Prohibition and Invasion mentality’s grip on voters. Defeating the worse of two evils is what libertarian spoiler votes do best. If we occasionally elect a genuine libertarian once in a while, so much the better. The selling point is that OUR votes pack many times the law-changing clout, therefore a vote for the looter prohibitionists is about two dozen potential votes wasted!

      1. I don’t think he even knows what he’s saying.

        Needs moar abortion, Hank.

        1. Either he’s lying, or he reads a much more interesting version of Fox News than those of us that aren’t hallucinating.

  6. Dissatisfaction with the two party system is the fault of the Republicans for becoming so much more extreme over the past few decades, while Democrats have hardly moved at all. I learned in college that the Republicans have shifted so far to the right, Ronald Reagan would be a Democrat today.

    1. Would Kennedy be alt right?

      1. No, JFK would be me-too’d.

        1. If JFK went to the Democratic Convention now, he’d ask, “Who let all these commies in here?”

          1. I think JFK in the 21st century would be a center-right GWB-esque politician.

    2. I think the problem is that both parties have shifted to the left, but the Democrats more than the Republicans. Those already in the Democrat party haven’t noticed, because they see everything from the perspective of the moving party, which to them seems not to move, while everything outside does.

      Anyone notice that OpenBorders says, “I learned in college…”

      The defense rests.

      1. Whether it’s immigration, gun control, welfare, or especially homosexuality, we can all find video of prominent Democrats in the 90s (or even 00s) proudly proclaiming positions that are stock Republican positions today.

        A cursory look at actual government policy confirms: Everyone is moving left; it’s just a question of more or less.

        A libertarian would be a fool to vote Democrat at this point.

  7. You need to fix your headline.
    It uses the word “Independent” where it means “non-partisan”. Which would be fine, if there weren’t an “Independent Party”, whose members are not, definitionally, non-partisan.

    1. I think most people know that Ms. Slade means independent of party affiliation, or “unaffiliated”. No need for a change.

  8. The number of people identifying as Republican fluctuates around 25%. The number of people identifying as Democrats has been plummeting.

    Takeaway: Democrats are leaving the plantation. But, are they seeing the light, or have they decided that the Democrats aren’t far enough to the left? Are they bottle fed Artie-type moron and Bern-outs, or #WalkAways?

    1. You should be focused on building a machine that mass-produces backward, uneducated, superstitious, selfish, easily frightened, gullible, intolerant, disaffected, rural, elderly white males, Vinni. That is Republicans’ only hope.

      Well, that and the Rapture.

      Good luck, clingers.

      1. You’re nothing if not consistent.

        Carry on, moron.

    2. This is mostly about the white, blue collar, middle class in the Midwest leaving the Democratic party and flooding into the Republican party.

      As recently as 2012, if you wanted to describe the Democrat base, it would be about union households and people who wanted to be in unions. The UAW, AFL-CIO, Teamsters, United Mine Workers, United Steel Workers, et. al. are still tied to the Democratic party–even though so many of their members have largely abandoned it for Trump.

      It’s not hard to see why. Trump campaigned on and delivered many of the anti-free trade policies the Democrats have been promising since the end of the Clinton administration. Trump won the primaries because so many registered Democrats voted for him in open primary states, and he won the election against Hillary because he won the white, blue-collar vote in the rust belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania.

      Meanwhile, it’s still hard for the progressives to believe that hating on the white, blue collar, middle class is unpopular with the white, blue collar, middle class, but, yeah, if you shit on the people whose support you need to win elections long enough, they will start shopping elsewhere.

      1. “Trump won the primaries because so many registered Democrats voted for him in open primary states”

        Whenever I make this statement, it invariably gets questioned. Republicans don’t want to believe that their victories depended on people who still identified as Democrats as recently as during the Obama administration, and Democrats, both online and in the media, refuse to believe that any Democrats left the fold for Trump.


        Here’s the truth:

        “In those open primaries, Trump has come out ahead in 13 out of 16 states. In states with closed primaries, Trump won only six out of 14 states. Overall, Trump has won closed states about half as often as he’s won those open states.

        —-CNBC, March 2016


        If you look at the chart, of the three open primaries Trump hadn’t won up to that point, two of them were won by native sons–Kasich in Ohio and Cruz in Texas. Trump won the rest of them–with the help of registered Democrats. People don’t generally only change their party affiliation when they move to a new address. These people may have identified as Republican if you surveyed them over the phone in 2016, but they were still registered as Democrats. As time goes on, more and more of them have actually changed their party affiliation–especially those people who live in closed primary states and want to vote for Republicans now.

        1. “Democrats, both online and in the media, refuse to believe that any Democrats left the fold for Trump.”

          To what extent are we talking about people who identify as Democrats who actually wanted Trump to be President, vs. people who identify as Democrats who actually wanted Trump to be the candidate? Because the latter does not necessarily imply the first.

      2. 538 (and if you can’t trust their predictions what can you trust?) thinks that the Democrats are in for a big comeback this election in the Midwest. Here is where I say even if that is true, Midwest Democrats should not be fooled–they are doomed in the long term. I say this exactly as I say that, whatever the Republicans’ short term gains–for example, I think Trump will be re-elected–they are doomed in the country as a whole. The rapidly dwindling population you describe will be the increasingly pure stranglehold of the Republicans, but it will be dwarfed by the booming Democrat demographic–to say nothing of their enormous potloads of money. This is to say nothing of the fact that the Dems will implement their nuclear options of voter-demographic warfare–including but certainly not limited to the mass legalization of the truly enormous number of resident illegals–the first chance they get (they are not nearly as incompetent as the GOP) and thereby possibly undermine even the Republican’s last natural bulwark (which may indeed strenghten in the interim) of the U.S. Senate.

        1. I expect the Republicans to lose the House in the midterms. They’ll probably hold on to the Senate.

          The first midterm after a new president is elected is almost invariably a referendum on the president. The median loss in House seats by the new president’s party is negative 24, more than enough for the Republicans to lose the House. The interesting thing from my own personal analysis is that it doesn’t seem to matter so much what the issue is. The American people seem to simply want to restrain the power of new presidents by restraining them through the separation of powers–and voting for his opposition in Congress. There are a couple of exceptions. One of them was the 2002 midterms for Bush Jr., in which the Republicans actually gained seats. That was after 9/11, when every second house and car in America was flying a flag, and before we invaded Iraq. Unless you think the country is that unified behind the president right now, the 2002 midterms were the exception that proves the rule.

          The assumption with the lowest margin of error is that Trump’s party will lose 24 seats in the House.

          Reagan lost 26 House seats in 1982 but won 49 of 50 states to be reelected in 1984.

          I think that’s more or less what will happen with Trump. The Republicans will lose control of the House, but that will have little or nothing to do with whether he’s reelected.

          1. I basically agree with all of that. (Frankly, I stress a lot more about the impending loss of the NYS Senate–whose Republican control will not survive the next census anyway even if a miracle somehow rescues them this year–than I do the U.S. House.) This is why even if my predictions are correct, that fact alone will not validate my histrionics.

            What will validate them–and frankly, will validate them even if the pollsters get punk’d again and the Republicans pull off the miraculous midterm gain LC1789 is predicting–is for example the closeness of the statewide races in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, and Texas in which hard, hard left candidates run as such utterly without apology, boasting endlessly about their radicalism. This is horrible news long term. I really do not give a shit if Republicans end up running the table with all of them–this time. We are not talking Conor Lamb here. The walls are closing in on the GOP–the party of an America that no longer is–fast.

            1. The R party still embodies policies that are not favorable to most. The Democrats are putting themselves as having policies most don’t agree with.

              However, none of these people want libertarian policies, either.

              Populism may be a bum idea, but I’d be interested in what kind of an ideology could attract this cross section. It seems predominantly anti-illegal immigration, wary of legal immigration yet views it as an overall good (within reason), pro-jobs, pro-welfare for those who can’t get decent paying jobs, and religious-friendly, even if not religious (a ~2 year old pew survey on attitudes towards Christians talking about their faith says a majority are not bothered by it). Economically, capitalist non-purists.

              1. What you’re basically describing is the FDR New Deal coalition.

              2. “Populism may be a bum idea, but I’d be interested in what kind of an ideology could attract this cross section.”

                The question is, will the electorate vote extreme short-term, or long-term? They’ve been short-term for several election cycles, going back to 2002 (response to 9/11 attacks), 2006 (war), 2010 (healthcare overhaul).

                It’s easy to promise solutions to problem in the short term. It’s considerably harder to actually deliver them in the long-term.
                We got this guy who’s REALLY good at PROMISING things, and REALLY underwhelming at delivering.

              3. What Republican policies are unpopular with most?

                1. “What Republican policies are unpopular with most?”

                  Note that the current Congress, dominated by Republicans, couldn’t accomplish much of anything, including a whole bunch of things they SAID they all agreed with, such as repealing ACA.

                  An interpretation of this is that most Republican policies are unpopular even with Republican leaders.

                  One problem is that for several years, pretty much the ONLY Republican policy was “If President Obama is in favor of something, we’re against it” and that kept them pretty much busy full-time. But then President Obama left office and went away and mostly shut up, and they didn’t know what to be against any more.

        2. “the mass legalization of the truly enormous number of resident illegals”

          I think that legalizing the majority of the illegals is likely, because nobody wants to pay what it would cost to remove them all, and there are too many of them to keep pretending that the existing system will eventually catch up to the backlog.

          But legalizing their presence is not the same thing as enfranchising them. I don’t see any groundswell of support for that. There is a LONG distance between stopping putting their children in cages and making them citizens, and support for the one doesn’t imply any support for the other.

          1. I should have clarified “path to citizenship,” which is what I believe is what is in the Democratic platform. (And hardly considered a fringe position among mainstream immigration doves of both parties. One might even say it’s a starting point of “respectable” discussion; “moderate, reasonable” people are those who point out (correctly, as you do) the immense practical challenges of dealing with those already here, and say, we must give them one more mass amnesty and citizenship path, but no more and we really mean it this time, we will be the most serious assholes you have ever met about borders from here on.

            1. …There is a certain idea popular with the Mises Institute crowd of ultradovish, even decentralized (surprise, surprise!) immigration policy, coupled with ultrahawkish naturalization policy. (The much-lauded “guest worker” compromise of the Bush era–back when the issue split both parties!–is a distant mainstream cousin of that philosophy.) I do see the philosophical appeal of this idea; but in the end I not only reject it in principle, but consider it to be a complete, existential disaster in the making on a practical level. This country has long had an immigration philosophy centered very heavily around people coming here expecting to settle permanently and become American. We are not supposed to have an economy centered around a sort of permanent domestic foreign labor class like the Europeans. In theory we traditionally both allow and expect our alien labor force to think of themselves as future Americans. That is not only a core defining value of our settler republic, but in practice the only way for anyone to have a stable society. It is nothing short of laughable that the MI folks (whom I usually like) point to the Gulf States and say, see, one can build a society like that!

              1. …The fact that our own society does not quite live up to its ideal should not mean that officializing this shortcoming is the answer. Worst of all worlds; recipe for disaster. America for the Americans or future Americans; illegals out with no mercy if it takes us decades.

                1. America for the Americans or future Americans

                  But EVERYONE is either an American, or, at least theoretically, a potential “future American”. This “America for Americans” credo implies that there is some specific set of characteristics that would invalidate a priori a particular individual’s claim to want to become a “future American” even if he/she met all the formal requirements for immigrating. For example an anti-Muslim demagogue might argue that Muslims should be forbidden from becoming Americans because of their religion. Is that the type of idea that you think the government ought to be pursuing?

                  1. I was arguing narrowly against specific proposals like the Mises Institute folks’, or those of the Bush-era guest-worker “moderates,” that envisioned legalizing and officializing, maintaining a large class of resident aliens who are not considered or expected to be on the road to becoming Americans. I consider that departure from traditional American immigration values to be envisioning a sort of helot class that I believe to be lethally destabilizing to a society. I have no idea what I said that in any way implies any of the things you ascribe to me!

                    1. If you were not advocating that position, then I apologize. I agree with your final comment here.

            2. ” we must give them one more mass amnesty and citizenship path, but no more and we really mean it this time”

              This isn’t my position.
              You could go with something like the old bracero program, for example. (You can stay here legally if you are self-supporting and not criminally so, and we’ll check up on you from time to time to make sure.) So if Miguel or Sergei or Chan can get here, find work, and house, feed, and clothe themselves, they get to do so legally.

              Then you deal with the birthright citizenship question either by properly removing it (via constitutional amendment) or by making pregnancy a disqualifier for being allowed to stay legally. Or, you know, maybe by welcoming in the new citizens for what they are, Americans, (I know, that’s crazy talk.)

      3. This is mostly about the white, blue collar, middle class in the Midwest leaving the Democratic party and flooding into the Republican party.

        That’s not what the chart shows.

        Democrat + Independent was roughly 70% in 1960, and is roughly 70% in 2010 and now.

        Republican is showing 25% +/- 5% for the span of the chart above.

        That’s not to say that you are wrong about union Democrat types from the mid-west voting for Trump. They may have voted for Trump, but if they did, they still don’t appear to identify as Republicans.

        1. “The number of people identifying as Republican fluctuates around 25%. The number of people identifying as Democrats has been plummeting.

          Takeaway: Democrats are leaving the plantation. But, are they seeing the light, or have they decided that the Democrats aren’t far enough to the left?”

          I was responding to that.

          No, it isn’t that the Democrats aren’t far enough to the left.

          Democrats plummeting has translated into wins for Trump in 2016, especially in open primaries and especially in rust belt swing states, where being a Democrat is tied to union affiliation.

          Here’s my other favorite quote on this topic:

          “Reagan Democrats” no longer saw the Democratic party as champions of their working class aspirations, but instead saw them as working primarily for the benefit of others: the very poor, feminists, the unemployed, African Americans, Latinos, and other groups.”


          The same demographic broke for Trump for the same reasons in 2016 as broke for Reagan in 1984, and it wasn’t because the Democrats weren’t far enough to the left.

          1. The R party is still viewed as the party of the wealthy (or at least the party where hard work gets you good money and a nice house).

            I think the blue-collar Reagan and Trump Democrats are a bit more in tune with even when you do everything right, work hard, and reinvent yourself, shitty stuff still happens.

            They value workers’ rights to protect them from bosses that view them all as interchangeable parts and a social safety net for the bad stuff they can’t recover from.

            They really are the independents. Still capitalist, where Democrats are going full socialist. Still welfare and regulation proponents where Republicans and Libertarians talk/are against.

            1. “The R party is still viewed as the party of the wealthy (or at least the party where hard work gets you good money and a nice house).”

              If you meant to say the party where being born to wealthy parents gets good money and a nice house, you’re correct. Inheriting money is not a skill, and it is usually not hard work.

              Wealth is power. The ability to give or take a livelihood from someone gives you power over them. What, if anything, can countervail this power? Answer: It depends. In some places, the peasants occasionally rise up, kill everyone in the big house, and someone else moves in. We’ve largely avoided that outcome, here…
              What is the role of government in mediating between the wealthy and the peasants? Some (mostly wealthy, coincidentally) argue that it should have no role, and the wealthy people should be allowed to use the power of their wealth without limitations. Some want the government to take the side of the peasants, and remove the wealth and power of the powerful wealthy. Neither of these choices is stable in the long run. So our government steers a middle course… countering the wealth and power of the wealthy in some cases, and catering to it in others.

  9. More Stephanie Slade is better.

    1. Does she ever attend the fundraisers? If so I think the commentariat should crowdfund a sash or whatever appointing her President of Libertarians for Fascist Womb Management or whatever it is, and present it to her. If she reads the comments (though there is little reason to think she is that stupid) she will get a big kick out of it!

  10. Thank you very much for the interesting information. Now this situation is not only in America. The choices are quite sketchy in America, since they understand that in fact the president does not decide a lot, but not before the party elections. There statistics opposite. My friends live in Germany and they say that people do not want to have the power of voice in many cases. By the way I want to offer a cool platform for events in Las Vegas https://best-vegas.com/events-next-14-days/. Non-commercial advertising, just an opportunity to relax with advantage

  11. “Even a strong third-party showing of, say, 20 percent would garner no political power at all.”

    Except that, if the margin of victory for the winner was less than 20 percent, then BOTH the D’s and R’s will make a play for that 20% the next time around. Swing voters get all the attention. The “reliable” party voters get words but little more, because their votes are not in play.

    That’s why, for example, when you hear a news story about how Democrats in the Senate think they can win a vote, it’s because they’re talking to Senator Collins. They don’t spend a lot of time trying to bring Senator Cruz over to their side. It’s also why national elections hinge on states where the number of D’s and R’s is about even. Washington and Massachusetts probably won’t go for the Republican candidate in 2020. South Carolina and Wyoming probably won’t go for the Democratic candidate. So neither candidate will spend much time in any of those states, except to raise money.

    1. That’s true, but only if those swing voters are gettable w/o turning off larger #s of reliable voters. Because “reliable” voters ain’t that reliable!

      1. The reliable faith-and-family voters went for the multiply-divorced guy with the pornstar mistresses.

        1. A thoughtful person would ask why that is, rather than talking about them in scorn. But, a thoughtful guy you ain’t…

          1. Well, that was thoughless.

        2. I know some of those “faith and family” voters. None had any illusion that Trump was a SoCon. They just viewed him as the least worst option.

  12. Unfortunately my experience has been that many Democrats are calling themselves Independent to imply that their critic of Republicans is somehow more valid and above the fray.

    1. I’ve known a lot of Republicans who lie and claim to be “Independent” for that reason, and for fear of being ostracized or harassed by family/friends/coworkers who are a little too rabid about politics.

      1. I agree with that completely. I do however encounter people who openly acknowledge voting straight ticket democrat them tell me they are independent. I have not meet it the other directions but would not doubt the existence.

  13. This is a serious problem. If 40% do not know if they are socialists or not, there is no hope for the country.

    1. Invariably, to be for capitalism is to be for socialism… so it’s probably a lot less hopeful than you realize.

  14. I think the rise of independents has mostly to do with how partisan Ds and Rs have become over the past 20 years-they have to please there big single issue donors above all else, which is what is driving partisanship. However, when it comes time to vote, most people see themselves having to pick the lesser of two evils, so they still vote D or R, they just don’t want to be associated with the nastiness that these parties are preaching.

    1. Not just the D’s and R’s. Independent groups exist for their expenditures to run attack ads against major party candidates.

  15. If we want people to leave Team Red and Team Blue, then libertarians have to offer an appealing alternative vision.

    What would that vision be?

    Frankly, it seems as though the vision that the majority of commenters here at Reason would want, is already captured by Team Red. So what more could Libertarians do that wouldn’t just be Republican-lite?

    What could the Libertarian Party do that would cause you to abandon the Republican Party, AND wouldn’t just be viewed as Republican-lite?

    1. There’s a reason that many people describe the Libertarian Party as “Republicans who want to smoke weed”.

      1. See, that’s kind of the problem.

        And the comments here, day in and day out, for the most part, only confirm that stereotype.

        When Reason, or a Libertarian like Gary Johnson, dares to stray too far from the central Republican message, then there is outrage.

        I would actually really like to know what people around here would want to see from a Libertarian Party that could earn their vote. They don’t seem too happy with the “cosmotarian” bent that it currently has. Okay, so what *would* cause you to vote for it? AND, how would this “new and improved” Libertarian Party be *substantially different* from the Republican Party so as to be not just viewed as republican-lite?

        1. First off, it has to not mean throwing away my opportunity to vote against a Democrat. There needs to be an actual shot at winning.

          Biggest thing beyond that is not dancing with communists just to prove your “not left or right!” bona fides.

          And finally, acknowledge that culture does matter. That libertarianism doesn’t survive the importation of anti-libertarian culture.

          Oh, and while you’re at it, admit that a Libertarian political party is going to be about using the apparatus of the state to protect negative rights. That should include the right to life for the unborn.

        2. REFORM.

          Everything from the tax code to welfare. It may not be doctrinal “cut government to the bone” libertarianism, but even getting rid of the worst of the waste and making social programs less dysfunctional would go a long way to attract different classes of voters and move closer towards the libertarian ideal.

          And taking an axe to the tax code, even if it is revenue neutral, would be the most effective means to reign in government.

          Left-libertarianism has numerous proposals for the simplification of government, which speaks to many populist concerns. It may be in the vein of “cosmotarian”, but even Trump is more akin to an old school democrat than anything traditionally Republican.

  16. And frankly I think that the rise in independents has to do with the dysfunctionality of government. From the graph it looks like the number of independents started to really take off at the end of the 2000’s, when both Team Red and Team Blue really started acting like the partisan jerks that they are, and forswearing any semblance of comity or cooperation. So I think declaring oneself as an independent may really just be a way of stating that one is just fed up with both teams. I think that if we had a coalition-type government (I know it’s not really possible in our system of government, but the idea of one anyway), where the large middle on both sides could come together and find a reasonable compromise on something like, say, health care, or taxes, then fewer people would register as independent because they would be able to see actually something getting done even if it wasn’t exactly what they wanted.

  17. After the public disclosure and attacks on donors to California Prop 8, and the attacks on Republicans during the 2016 campaign it’s an act of courage to openly register as a Republican and donate never mind put a sign on your lawn or a bumper sticker on your car.

    Better safe than sorry: register Independent.

  18. We are less partisan than ever, it seems, except at the moment when it counts.

    Or voters are less informed and just vote for the guy whose commercials they see on the TV more often.

  19. The worst part of being registered independent is all the goddamn junk mail and phone messages from both D’s *nuts* and R’s!

  20. Until presidential and all other national elections require a runoff for non-majority votes, a third party has no chance, because most people are convinced that a third party vote is equivalent to a vote for the undesired party. “Sending a message” doesn’t work. Some say Ross Perot caused a Democrat to be elected by taking Republican votes. Could be.

    In the meantime, while we may have more independents, we for sure have a lot of dependents, with 46 million people getting groceries and cell phones paid for by those of us who work and vote.

  21. Independents self-identify as people who have no moral center.

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