Recent polls find Republicans and Democrats sharply polarized in beliefs, and Independent voters are no help to overcoming this division.
That’s because those Independents appear rather polarized themselves.
When it comes to fiscal issues, Independents hold positions very similar to the beliefs of Republicans. For example, a recent CBS News poll finds a majority of both groups to disapprove with Pres. Obama’s handling of the economy. Three-quarters of Democrats, though, approve.
Two-thirds of Independent voters believe the country is moving in the wrong direction overall, as do over 80 percent of Republicans, while only 37 percent of Democrats agree with those other voter groups.
On social issues, however, another study of greater depth finds Independents in near perfect alignment with the beliefs of Democrats. A majority of both Democrats and Independents think government should be more involved in health care, for instance, according to a 12-year study by the Pew Research Center.
A majority of Democrats and Independents alike believe the government should provide aid to the poor; both groups support civil liberties including gay marriage; and Independents declare themselves to be even less religiously-inclined than Democrats.
This group of Independents is also rapidly growing in number. In 1990, only 29 percent of American voters stated they did not belong to any political party. Today, 36 percent – more than any other party affiliation – declare themselves to be Independent.
While new, younger voters may be a contributing factor of the growth trend in Independent voter identification, it also seems apparent that disinterest in the Republican Party overall has aided this growth.
In the last 20 years, voters who identify themselves to be Republican declined from 31 percent to 23. Democrats, however, maintained voter identification at 33 percent in 1990 to 35 percent today.
This disinterest in Republican Party identification is not necessarily costing the GOP any Independent votes, however, as the recent midterm elections indicate. Republicans claimed majority presence in the U.S. House of Representatives in the November 2nd races.
There still are particular fiscal issues in which Independents are more likely to agree with Democrats, according to the recent CBS poll. For example, a plurality of Independents (49 percent) state that tax cuts on the wealthy should be allowed to expire (43 percent disagree). Only 23 percent of Republicans believe this, however, while 69 percent of Democrats think those particular tax cuts on high income should not be reinstated.
And 69 percent of Independent voters believe the newly-elected Republican representatives, who will assume majority in the House this January, should compromise on particular issues.
“Looking Ahead to the 112th Congress”; CBS News Poll; Nov. 7-10, 2010: www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/11/11/politics/main7045964.shtml?tag=contentMain;contentBody
“Independents Take Center Stage in Obama Era”; The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press; www.people-press.org/report/517/political-values-and-core-attitudes