Study: Political Independents on the Rise

Report finds independents gaining at expense of both parties in key swing states


The number of political independents is rising in eight key swing states, and the number of registered Democrats and Republicans is dropping, according to a new analysis by Third Way, a centrist think tank.

The result is more damaging for the Democrats than for the GOP.

The group analyzed data from the secretaries of state in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and found that the number of independents is up 3.4 percent in those states from 2008. The number of registered Democrats dropped by 5.4 percent and Republicans fell by 3.1 percent. [Check out a roundup of editorial cartoons on the economy.]

In other words, Third Way found that more than 254,000 new independent voters have been added to the rolls for 2012 and there are nearly 826,000 fewer registered Democrats. Meanwhile, the number of registered Republicans decreased by more than 378,000, not a healthy sign for the GOP but better than the Democrats' performance.

"Our analysis also predicts that 2012 will see the highest turnout rate among independents in 35 years—since [Gerald] Ford v. [Jimmy] Carter in 1976," the Third Way report said. "That means if President Obama performs at the levels Democrats did in the 2010 mid-terms with independents, it would spell disaster, with five key swing states in the loss column and the others substantially tightening, no matter how well Obama does among Democratic voters." [Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad.]

The report underscores the disenchantment that voters feel with the major parties and suggests that the Democrats and Republicans have a big challenge ahead in motivating people outside the party structures. This political environment seems to provide fertile ground for a third party next year.

  • See a slideshow of 10 things Obama can learn from Clinton.
  • See a slideshow of 10 issues driving Obama's re-election campaign.
  • See the month's best political cartoons.