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On July 1, 2007, Washington Post staff writers Dan Balz and Jon Cohen reported on what could well be the most in-depth look at Independents we will have this year. The Survey of Political Independents was co-sponsored by the The Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.
Conducted nationally between May 3 and June 3, 2007, the survey reflects the views of 2,140 randomly selected individuals who were each asked 99 questions covering a wide range of political preferences and issues. Summary results were: 36% identified as Democrat, 27% as Republican, 29% as Independent, with the balance citing Libertarian, Conservative, Other, No Party, Don’t know. IDn will be drawing on the survey in its coverage of the 2008 election.
IDn readers may be particularly interested in the following categories of Independents that Balz and Cohen developed from the survey report. The percentages indicate each category’s portion of all Independents:
Deliberators (18%) – Classic swing voters who believe in the two-party system, tend to have favorable views of the parties and repeatedly strut their independence at the ballot box.
Disillusioned (18%) – Deeply dissatisfied with politics today, antagonistic to both parties and the two-party system itself, nearly 7 in 10 of whom cite themselves as angry.
Dislocated (16%) – While active and engaged, these are overwhelmingly socially liberal and fiscally conservative, and uncomfortable with increasingly polarized parties.
Disguised Partisans (24%) – Thinking like partisans – i.e., Republican or Democrat – and tending to vote on a party line, these nevertheless disavow party identification, are more negative about politics today, and are more likely to have supported an independent or third party candidate in the past.
Disengaged (24%) – Largely removed from the political fray.
Other cites from the article:
59% of Independents in the sample have always thought of themselves as an Independent; 21% of Independents in the sample were former Democrats and 14% were former Republicans.
When asked to rate the national parties, 55% of the Independents interviewed viewed the Democrats favorably, while 41% gave Republicans favorable marks.
Survey Independents cited preferring to vote the issues and the candidates, rather than party affiliation, as the most important reasons for self-identifying as Independents.
According to exit polls by Edison/Mitofsky, in 2004, Independents split 49% for the Democrat candidate and 48% for the Republican; in 2006, Independents voting for House of Representative candidates split 57% for the Democrats and 39% for the Republicans.