‘Independent’ voters are not going to save the GOP

David Atkins at the Political Animal blog takes a look at the recent Gallup poll and writes Republicans are getting left behind, and “independents” won’t save them:

The new Gallup numbers have been a hot topic of conversation over the last few days. Most of the discussion has focused on how the electorate is slowly but surely shifting away from the GOP and conservatism in general, which is true.

But some other interesting points stand out as well when you break down the numbers. Let’s take a look:

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First off, let’s look at “independents.” Like most pollsters, Gallup is once again treating “independents” as some special class of voter with their own more “centrist” views. While that’s a comfortable fiction for centrist-leaning establishment types, it’s not an accurate reflection of the electorate.

So-called independent voters may not identify themselves with either party to a pollster or on their voter registration form, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a strong partisan preference. The vast majority of “independent” voters are just as partisan as nominally Democratic or Republican voters. In fact, they’re often even more so as many independents are far left or far right types unhappy that their otherwise preferred party doesn’t tilt far enough in their direction.  [This refutes the media villager meme that “Independent” voters are “centrists” or “moderates.”]

Only 12% of voters switched sides between 2008 and 2010—and there were just as many GOP-to-Dem switches as the reverse. The 2010 “shellacking” wasn’t the result of voters changing their minds on party or policy, but the result of Democratic-leaning voters staying home from the polls.

So it shouldn’t surprise us to see that on most issues, the “independent” opinion falls pretty squarely in the middle of the Democratic and Republican ones. That’s what you should expect when you take an equal aggregate of Democratic and Republican opinions, throw them into a jumbled mix, and call it the “independent” vote.

Second, Gallup reached new record highs of acceptability for a wide range of issues and practices, including divorce, premarital sex, abortion, stem cells, LGBT relationships, and doctor-assisted suicide. Even cloning and polygamy have seen record high upticks. Society is certainly moving away from conservative morality on sex, science and death with dignity.

Even so, the Republican resistance on issues that have largely been decided in the public sphere is a little shocking.

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This is part of why the Republican party is having such trouble reinventing itself. The base voters of the GOP aren’t even successfully adjusting to where society is today or even where it was 10 years ago, much less where it’s going over the next 10 years. That’s a big problem for a party facing a tidal wave of Hispanic and Millennial voters.

Many GOP strategists are assuming and hoping that “independent” voters will flock to their side as social mores continue to shift. But that’s a faulty assumption based on a false premise. Most independents are squarely set in their ways, and the percentage of the electorate that holds the GOP’s antiquated values shrinks every day.

Atkins notes in another post, “In the meantime, polls are voters moving away from the GOP on most issues. Fox News’ ratings are tanking. And early numbers are indicating that while liberal and centrist voters aren’t excited about voting in the primary, conservative voter enthusiasm seems to be greatly diminished as well.”

4 responses to “‘Independent’ voters are not going to save the GOP

  1. I hate the question “Is this country headed in the right direction? ” We all know that it’s not, but that shouldn’t be the question. The question should be “why isn’t this country headed in the right direction?” or “Who is responsible for why the country isn’t headed in the right direction”.
    A: Obama’s Liberalism
    B: Republican Obstructionism.

    Personally, I think the country is headed in the wrong direction because the GOP has knee-capped everything progressive that the President or Democrats have tried to do and the Supreme Court gave us Citizens United to drown campaigns in Corporate money to help the GOP. But, even though it is “still (as it was under GWB)” headed in the wrong direction, we have been able to get a few valuable things accomplished “in spite of GOP”. Ending the War in Iraq, ending Afghanistan; the ACA; getting Bin Laden; and recently new Environmental caps. Then on the GOP side they’ve stopped UI, cut Food Stamps, stopped a Jobs Bill, stopped an Infrastructure Bill. , refused to pass rational gun control legislation, stopped tax credits for renewables, and fought each and every bill for the environment, etc. If they hadn’t done that, we would be a lot further along the road to recovery. However, as a Precinct committee person, I’m sorry to say that most of the Independents I talk to in my Precinct are not going to vote at all, they register as Independent because they know what each Party stands for, don’t participate in campaigns, don’t pay attention to issues, and frequently say they don’t believe their vote will make a difference, and most have no interest in me enlightening them on any of the issues. Very disheartening. I know this isn’t true of all Independents, but in my little corner of the world that is what I’ve heard from them. They are mostly young, middle class, white and blue collar workers with families…. who should care, but don’t.

  2. Thucydides

    But, that is not how voters are going to make their decision. Above all, people want quality jobs for their children and for themselves. This economy isn’t producing jobs and the jobs that it is producing are increasingly of lower quality, I.e. more likely to be part-time and more likely not to have benefits and more likely to be lower paying.

    This election is likely to be a referendum on the economy and with 70 percent of the country saying the country is headed in the wrong direction, judgement day is getting closer and it is looking more like the apocalypse for democrat candidates.

    • C’mon, Thuck, we’ve already heard about how Obama caused the recession that started in 2007 by moving ahead of McCain in the polls in 2008.

      What we really want to know is whether you’re going to be standing in for Huppenthal at the next debate. Do tell.

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      As Tip O’Neill famously observed, “all politics is local.” The GOP has had complete control of the governor’s office and legislature since Janet Napolitano left in February of 2009, and complete control of all state offices and the legislature since 2010. The faith based supply-side “trickle down” GOP economic policies have not magically produced the jobs promised by the GOP’s disproved and discredited economic theory, and the few jobs that are being produced are low paying service sector jobs, by your own admission. 2014 is a referendum election alright — a referendum on the failed GOP leadership of this state under Jan Brewer and our Tea-Publican legislature.