Scott Neuman asks at NPR, how independent are independents?
There's a lot of talk this election cycle about how important independents will be in deciding the November presidential election and which candidate will win their votes. But exactly how independent are the self-styled independents?
"Truly independent voters do exist," he writes, "but they account for just 10 percent to 15 percent of the electorate." Center for Politics concurs:
Research has demonstrated that, when pressed, independent voters often reveal significant partisan preferences: They lean Democratic or lean Republican. When leaners are reclassified and grouped among their partisan peers the share of pure independents in the electorate falls -- by some accounts -- to less than 10% of the electorate.
A later piece also observes that "most independent leaners are closet partisans rather than true independents:"
Americans who identify themselves as independents but who indicate that they lean toward one of the two major parties generally think and behave more like partisans than like true independents.
In three myths about independents, John Sides notes the increase in the number of voters who claim to be independent, but his analysis also shows that "most independents are closet partisans" with an even smaller percentage of true independents:
Again, there is really no difference between partisans of either stripe and independent leaners. As far as their views of Obama are concerned, it doesn't really matter whether you say you're a Democrat or an independent who leans Democrats, and the same is true on the other side of the aisle. Only "pure" independent appear to have evenly divided attitudes as of November, but, as above, these people are only a very small part of the sample--7% overall. [...] 90% of the public is partisan and about 80-90% of those voters vote for their party's candidate.
My favorite question for Republicans-in-Independent-clothing is: When was the last time you voted for a Democrat? Sometimes, an evasion is more illuminating than an answer.