Rise of independent voters examined by ASU Morrison Institute, USC

Friday, October 6, 2017

Politics, elections and governance in the United States are largely viewed through the lens of a two-party power structure of Republicans and Democrats. However, a distinct but ill-defined group of voters is quietly becoming a force that no longer can be ignored. Independent voters are increasingly determining winners and losers in election contests throughout the country and the number of Americans who call themselves independents is on the rise. However, little is known about the America’s independent voters.

The Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University and the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy have teamed up with one another and Independentvoting.org to examine the independent voter phenomenon and the impact that it is having on the American political landscape. Their findings have been outlined in the briefing paper "Gamechangers?: Independent Voters May Rewrite the Political Playbook," released Oct. 5.

“The rising number of voters in the United States who are registering and identifying as “independent” is a very important phenomenon and is already impacting local, state and national elections,” said former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Understanding who these voters are and what they care about is essential to a strong democracy, and I am proud to have my Institute involved with this study.”

Joseph Garcia, a lead author of the report, director of communication and community impact, and director of the Latino Public Policy Center at Morrison Institute added: "This paper provides an important foundation for a better understanding of independent voters, as well as the underreported undercurrent of independent sentiment in a traditionally viewed political world that is still very much controlled by the two major parties. That long-held duo control is becoming more tenuous, however, as more voters disassociate themselves with polarizing partisanship and constricting party lines by joining the independent movement — either by action, name or both."

Longstanding independent voter advocate and best-selling author Jacqueline Salit also contributed to the report.

"Like Einstein's theory of relativity or Galileo's insistence that the earth revolves around the sun, new ways of seeing the dynamics of our world can be gamechanging," Salit said. "In our work with USC’s Schwarzenegger Institute and ASU's Morrison Institute, we're showing the world new ways of seeing the independent voter. This will have a dramatic impact on the politics of our country."

Copies of the reports can be downloaded from the Morrison Institute website.