Who is Arizona’s Independent Voter?



Arizona’s Citizens Clean Election Commission had a panel discussion on Arizona’s Independent Voter in Tempe a few nights ago, based on information from a Nov. 2015 report by ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

I just perused it and basically the report says that 37 % (or 1.219 million) of Arizona’s registered voters are declaring themselves as Independent (“Other”) – more in numbers than registered  Republicans and Democrats.   The report describes them as “an unlikely group of like-minded and unlike-minded individuals who seem to take pride in their independence from organized and recognized political parties”, and perceived  as “unharnessed”, “unpredictable” (page 1).
Independent voters also have a poor track record of turnout in both primary and general elections.  The interesting fact is that based on their telephone survey of 2000 Arizona voters (400 Dems, 400 Republicans, 1200 Independents), the Morrison report states that independent voters tend to fall in the “moderate” category.
Many of these survey respondents believed there was “too much partisan conflict in the Arizona state capitol” and that being independent meant “more choices” and “less commitment with the parties” (page 3).  Participants stated “We are not a party. We are a mindset” (page 4) of  independent voters who are allegedly “more informed” and “more critical of what politicians say…”.
In sum, on page 6, the report states ” The intensified political battle for the independent vote by Republicans and Democrats is not, in actuality, for all independents…The challenge is to capture moderate independents, those in the middle who see themselves as separate from both political party philosophies and whose vote cannot be easily predicted or won.”
The Morrison report also has an appendix at the end with survey results for various topics such as campaign funding, better elections,  education, social issues  (pages 12 to 23).
In Pima County, number of registered voters (from Pima County Recorder: https://www.recorder.pima.gov/VoterStats/voterttlsdist
Democrats  175,621
Republican  147,602
Libertarian 3849
Green 1612
Americans Elect 70
Other 165,316
Note there are more Independents/Others than Republican voters  in Pima County.
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Carolyn Classen
Carolyn Sugiyama Classen, a life long Democrat, was born & raised in the State of Hawaii, was a Legislative Aide for U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye on Capitol Hill, and practiced law for a while. In Tucson she worked as a tribal staff attorney for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and later was the Interim Executive Director of the now defunct Domestic Violence Commission. In 2008 she became a “My Tucson” guest columnist for the Tucson Citizen newspaper, then continued blogging for Tucsoncitizen.com for over four and a half years. Her blogsite was entitled “Carolyn’s Community” about community events and some political news, until Gannett Publishing shut down the site on January 31, 2014. She started with Blog for Arizona on Feb. 11, 2014. Part time she has been sitting as a Hearing Officer in Pima County Consolidated Justice Courts Small Claims Division since April, 2005. She is married to University of Arizona Distinguished Professor Albrecht Classen, a native of Germany. They have one son, who lives in Seattle, WA with his wife and daughter. She is also the Editor of the Southern Arizona Japanese Cultural Coalition website, www.southernazjapan.org (since Jan. 2013).


  1. There is no such a thing as ‘registered Independent’. As stated in this study and any official sources, there is no Independent party in Arizona. One can be an independent voter though.

    • Very true Mariana. The Morrison report seems to say that if the Independents were an organized political party, they could be a powerful force…but they are not. And Independent political candidates have not fared well in the American political system. The only Independent candidates in Southern Arizona were those who left their party (i.e. Ed Moore, Carol West, Ted Downing, Gene Chewning), as far as I know.

  2. I have always thought that the terms “moderate” and “independent” were far too complementary for that group of voters, the majority of which really don’t give a crap what’s going on. The survey was accurate in describing them as “non-voting” and disconnected from the whole process. I have also suspected that calling themselves “moderate” or “independent” makes them feel special and wise like Solomon, when, in truth, it just means they are wishy washy and unable to make up their mind. Of course, that is not true of all of them, but it is true of enough of them that it makes a reasonable stereotype.

    I haven’t understood why either party tries too hard to woo this category of voter because, if they vote at all, they are most likely to vote “symbolically” and vote for the Green Party or the Libertarian Party or some other fringe Party to make a statement. That way they can say they voted their concience and can’t be held responsible for the mess in Washington, D.C.

    • Thanks for your comment Steve. The Morrison report also states that these are people dissatisfied with the political process, and many of them choose not to vote at all, thus the low voter turnout for Independents.

  3. I know it’s probably too late but it really is unfortunate that Arizona uses the term “independent” when “unaffiliated” would be more accurate.
    The term “moderate” also seems to have been adopted as a substitute for “not interested’, or “ignorant”, or “who the hell cares?”, or “what difference does it make?”,….
    There are lots of independent minded Democrats and maybe even a few Republicans.
    No one has had their choices limited by affiliating with a party! In fact the opposite seems to be true. If you are not affiliated you can make a last minute choice and vote in either party’s Primary.
    It’s about time we moved to strengthen parties not emasculate them.

    • The Morrison Institute report asks “Or, with no organization and a track record of poor turnout in both primary and general elections, are independents a much-ado-about-nothing “party” of non-participants?” (page 1) Non-affiliated is a good term as well for these who chose the catch-all “other” category of party affiliation.

  4. Actually Independent is most often the selection chosen by people who are not interested enough in their future to pay attention much less choose a partythat comes closest to their viewpoints. Evidence for this is clear from the lack of participation by Independents in primary elections in the state even though they are allowed by law to choose one party ballot and vote in all primaries except national offices. with barely a few exceptions these Independents are the most disconnected voters in the state.

    • Right, the Morrison Institute report says in the conclusions: “But data underscore the fact few independents vote in the general election – and alarmingly fewer still vote in the primary, when many of Arizona’s elections are essentially decided.” And of course many Independents don’t know they can vote in the primaries.

      • Tom, the point you’re making is valid, but is it meaningful? You’re very clearly an outlier. Your political involvement does not confer political involvement on the part of independents as a class.

        Nonetheless, the comment to which you respond doesn’t withstand scrutiny. Many independents simply reject both parties as not representing their views. They register independent to voice their rejection. Which also explains the non-voting. But none of that means they’re not “interested in their future.” They just don’t buy into the garbage peddled to them by both sides.

  5. does anybody know who the head of the democratic party in arizona is? as anyone heard from him? can you blame the independent voters for not knowing the democratic party exists except to raise money from fat cats so the paid leaderships paychecks don’t bounce! fred duval is the perfect example of what is wrong with the arizona democrat party trying to appeal to republiscum instead of latino democrats arizona democratic partys future.

    • The Chair of the Arizona Democratic Party is a woman & former Congressional Aide, Alexis Tameron, married to Adam Kinsey, former Executive Director of the Pima County Democratic Party. More about their leadership here:
      http://www.azdem.org/meet-party-leaders. Dissatisfaction with both parties has lead many to choose to become Independents, as the Morrison Institute reports states.

  6. ““too much partisan conflict in the Arizona state capitol” ”

    What “partisan conflict”??? The Republican majority does whatever the hell it wants, and so long as it can get *it’s* members to agree, the Democrats are (sometimes literally) locked out of the process.

    There is NO “PARTISAN” conflict in the State House, unless you count the conflict between the sane and the insane Republicans; you know, the ones who just listen to what ALEC says, versus the ones who who just listen to what Alex Jones says.

    And what is the ‘moderate position’ on things the parties are fighting about?

    These people don’t want a democracy; they want a dictatorship that doesn’t bother them too much, so they don’t have to give a crap.

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