Geoffrey Skelley had this story in FiveThirtyEight. Here is an excerpt:
Today, [independents are]… pretty representative of how Americans identify politically. The share of Americans who say they’re independent has climbed considerably, according to Gallup’s quarterly party affiliation data. In the late 1980s, roughly one-third of Americans identified as Democratic, Republican or independent. Now, 40 percent or more identify as independent, while the share who identify as Democrats or Republicans has fallen to around 30 percent or lower, as the chart below shows.
On the one hand, more Americans identifying as independent probably doesn’t seem like a bad thing. Independents are often portrayed as more open-minded and less dogmatic in their political views. And in a nation whose founders feared factional politics, the value of political independence is also an attractive one to many Americans.
The problem is that few independents are actually independent. Roughly 3 in 4 independents still lean toward one of the two major political parties, and studies show that these voters aren’t all that different from the voters in the party they lean toward. Independents who lean toward a party also tend to back that party at almost the same rate as openly partisan voters.
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