“NO, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES, NO.” – Or, “Do Independent Voters Decide Elections? A Balanced Critique.”

Newsweek has a piece talking about the crucial role independent male voters play in the Democrats’ electoral prospects. Author Howard Fineman warns:

If Democrats are to avoid a wipe-out, they need to protect some of the big gains they made two years ago among self-described independents.

Especially, the article says, “independent males” who are, according to this article’s definition of “most” – the worst definition of “most” ever – most independents.

Most independents (51 percent) are males.

There’s a really low bar for “most” these days.

A little background. Independent parties themselves are reliably nonexistent parts of the Presidential vote share, at least in this century.

But they’rere a higher share of the electorate overall.

Yet the case made here is that male independent voters are pretty much fed up with Obama, and so he’s doomed in 2012 – and his party is doomed in 2010. Yet compared to self-identified Democrats, independents seem downright complacent. The satisfaction tumble in Democratic has been more than twice the magnitude of independents,’ 30% to 14% respectively.

And what’s up with the decision to focus on independent men, only half the registered independents? Could it be because while male independent voters favored McCain by 3 points in 2008, female independent voters favored Obama by 20?

Female independent voters overwhelmingly favor Obama

Fineman’s story disappears when you ask him about independent voters, instead of 51% of independent voters. After all, a thorough comparison would yield a much more mundane point. Instead of being doomed, the Democrats are… meh, they’re okay.

This is important because, contrary to popular belief, independents are about as unlikely to switch parties as anybody else.

In the words of MonkeyCage, the three biggest myths about political independents are:

1) Independents are the largest partisan group.

2) Independents are actually independent.

3) Change in the opinions of independents is always consequential.

As Mother Jones says, “Most independents are closet partisans.” Across American electoral history, only about 11% of registered independents – or about 2% of the electorate, or about 1% under Fineman’s boys’-only analysis – have actually behaved like “independents.” Independents consistently admit they at least lean towards one party or the other.

Independent partisans

And, in the final analysis, even those who call themselves true independents basically vote the same way as people who “weakly lean” towards one party.

Indepdents versus Leaners

And Obama in 2008 enjoyed a 10% advantage from that population.

This is not a story from any direction. Obama does not really appear to have an independent crisis and, if we take it for granted that Obama will be “closer” to Democrats’ preferred candidate in 2012 than the Republican, this is likely to hold for “independents” as well, and they’ll end up voting the same way they were going to, anyway.


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One Response to ““NO, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES, NO.” – Or, “Do Independent Voters Decide Elections? A Balanced Critique.””

  1. Why Do Parties Still Do Fundraising? « Casual Factors Says:

    […] The advantage of parties doing their own fundraising seems to be that donors know with virtual certainty that their money will go to Democrats, and if they’re donating through systems like Act Blue, to the Democrats who need the money most. This is of value to people who intrinsically value the election of one party over the other – admittedly, this is (usually secretly) most people. […]

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