As independent voters' numbers rise, GOP is hurt most

Chart shows party identification for Americans by yearly averages of polling; 1988-2013; a record high of 42 percent identified as political independents in 2013, and a record low of 25 percent identified as Republicans. MCT 2014

With ELECTION-INDEPENDENTS, McClatchy Washington Bureau by David Lightman

Chart shows party identification for Americans by yearly averages of polling; 1988-2013; a record high of 42 percent identified as political independents in 2013, and a record low of 25 percent identified as Republicans. MCT 2014 With ELECTION-INDEPENDENTS, McClatchy Washington Bureau by David Lightman

— Fed up with the Democrats and Republicans who run Washington, growing numbers of people are calling themselves independents.

The Republican Party stands to suffer the most from the movement away from staunch party loyalty, but Democrats also are affected.

"This says both parties are dealing with wounded brands," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. As a result, he said, "there are more voters up for grabs."

Voters are increasingly wary of anyone with ties to the political establishment. A McClatchy-Marist poll last month found 41 percent of registered voters called themselves independent, a much higher percentage than either political party can claim.

Gallup found the independent total last year at 42 percent, the highest since it began asking 25 years ago. One-fourth identified themselves as Republicans, the worst showing during that span. Thirty-one percent said they were Democrats, down 5 percentage points from 2008, when President Barack Obama was first elected.

The impact on next fall's congressional and gubernatorial elections is hard to gauge precisely. Many voters retain emotional links to political parties and might still be susceptible to partisan pitches. But independents have shown a tendency to move away from candidates they're uncomfortable with in recent elections, and polls suggest they're ready to do so again.

The trend arguably has cost Republicans the ability to have more clout in the Senate since 2010, as they've lost seats they'd been expected to win. Democrats today control 55 of the Senate's 100 seats.

In 2010, for example, Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., who'd repeatedly won his at-large congressional seat statewide, fell in the Republican Senate primary to tea party favorite Christine O'Donnell. Independents were 27 percent of the state's electorate that year, and they gave little-known Democrat Chris Coons a 3 percentage point advantage. O'Donnell couldn't overcome that edge, since she won 4 of 5 Republicans, not enough to offset Coons' winning 9 of 10 Democrats.

In 2012, Republicans saw big opportunities to win a Senate seat in Missouri and hold on to one in Indiana. But tea party candidate Richard Mourdock beat veteran incumbent Richard Lugar in Indiana's Republican primary, and controversial conservative Todd Akin won Missouri's Republican nomination.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who'd been seen as highly vulnerable, beat Akin easily. Independents made up about 28 percent of the Missouri voters, according to exit polls, and they gave her a 50-38 percent edge. Yet those same independents voted 59-35 for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

In Indiana, Democrat Joe Donnelly benefited from the same trend. Independents were 27 percent of the electorate, and they voted by 50-39 percent for him _ but 52-41 for Romney.

Republican conservatives face similar problems this year in states where moderate Republicans can make a difference. Center-right Republicans helped elect governors in Democratic-leaning states in 2010, but several of them now face trouble.

In Pennsylvania, Republican Tom Corbett's Quinnipiac poll approval rating was 36 percent last month. Independents have turned on him; 59 percent voted for him in 2010, but 53 percent now disapprove of the job he's doing. Corbett has stirred controversy with his anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage views.

In Maine, Republican Gov. Paul LePage also has lost ground. Last year he called independent lawmakers _ a potent force in Maine _ "idiots," and another time suggested that the Internal Revenue Service was "not quite as bad _ yet" as Nazis responsible for the Holocaust.

Pan Atlantic SMS Group, which conducts surveys in Maine, found in November that LePage trailed Democrat Mike Michaud by a percentage point. A key reason: Independents preferred Michaud by 8 percentage points.

In the South, the independent trend creates a different narrative. The movement tends to be away from the Democratic Party, which controlled politics for generations. Republicans began making inroads in the late 1960s, as many whites rebelled against Democrats' championing of civil rights legislation. The trend now threatens the few remaining Democratic statewide officeholders in the South .

In Louisiana, where Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu faces a tough road to re-election, white voters "tend to not like Washington. They're pro-gun, anti-abortion and want lower taxes," said Bernie Pinsonat, a partner in Baton Rouge's Southern Media and Opinion Research.

It's still hard for people whose family ties to Democrats go back generations to say they're Republicans, but "they don't like the Democratic Party," Pinsonat said.

"But they don't consider themselves officially in the Republican Party," he explained, "so they call themselves independent."

Another imperiled Democratic incumbent is Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor. In 1999, according to the Arkansas Poll, 35 percent of adults identified themselves as Democrats, 23 percent as Republicans and 31 percent as independents. Last year, the Democratic share had dropped to 30 percent, independents were up to 37 percent and Republicans claimed 24 percent.

Those moving away from the Democratic Party "hate the national Democratic Party. They're very uncomfortable with President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid," poll director Janine Parry said. Nevada Sen. Reid and California Rep. Pelosi, the top Democratic congressional leaders, are regarded as leaders of the liberal wing.

At the same time, though, people in Arkansas "know their local Democrats," and are often comfortable with them, Parry said.

The way a Democrat wins in such states _ which include North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Kentucky _ is twofold: Paint the Republican as an extremist and make sure the local folks talk up the Democratic candidate.

"We win when we get the moderates," said Rep. Steve Israel of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Whether the independent trend will create a national wave for one party or another is unlikely. Past national trends are poor predictors. Romney won independents in 2012 by 50 to 45 percent, according to network exit polls, while losing the overall popular vote, by 51 to 47 percent.

Obama easily won the independents in 2008, but while Democrat John Kerry topped President George W. Bush among them by 49 to 48 percent in 2004, Bush won the election.

Presidential elections, though, tend to see higher turnouts. Participation in midterm elections usually is far less, and races often turn on local issues and personalities. That, in turn, means that voters flirting with independence are wooable.

"With Americans increasingly eschewing party labels for themselves," Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones said, "candidates who are less closely aligned to their party or its prevailing doctrine may benefit."

© 2014 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 7

Konfuzius writes:

"The Republican Party stands to suffer the most from the movement away from staunch party loyalty, but Democrats also are affected."

That is fact. And fact is:

The GOP currently falls back even behind the level of "W" Bush. This made ​​it shiny, with value- conservative rhetoric to tie the lower white middle class in itself , without the real fiscal would have led class struggle from above there to a vociferous protest. The last Republican president could still all relevant wing of the GOP - the Christian right , fiscal conservatives and liberal Republicans - bind to the party. For moderate tones in immigration policy were also part of his strategy as the rhetoric of "compassionate conservatism" which was expressed in slogans such as "No Child Left Behind". By focusing more on evangelical traditionalists and conservative market dogmatists diminishes the binding force of the GOP. The volume at which the minority of the Tea Party is fighting against the welfare state tradition of Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" covers how natural large parts of the population are dependent on the few existing social achievements . Paul Krugman pointed out in the New York Times aptly points out that an abstract anti - statism indeed can hope to much acclaim. Specifically, but also to defend numerous supporters of the GOP their claims on Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Like a conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer as GREAT President Barack Obama want to show as a "leveler" - radical political patronage , the risks for ideological reasons, even a crash in the recession the GOP continues to the sidelines.
That means as fact. GOP time is over! By!By!
Next President Hillary Rodham Clinton.
On top she has the most charismatic first mate:
Great President William Jefferson Clinton ret.

1Paradiselost writes:

"The Republican Party stands to suffer the most from the movement away from staunch party loyalty"

No wonder to me why less an less people identify with the Republican party. Just read some of the comments in this newspaper.

The far right wing is scaring moderate Republican away from the party. Loosing 5 out of the last 6 presidential elections says something!

Are you listening?

Konfuzius writes:

in response to 1Paradiselost:

"The Republican Party stands to suffer the most from the movement away from staunch party loyalty"

No wonder to me why less an less people identify with the Republican party. Just read some of the comments in this newspaper.

The far right wing is scaring moderate Republican away from the party. Loosing 5 out of the last 6 presidential elections says something!

Are you listening?

I hear you! GOP time is over. Look at their fan club at Marco Island. You believe with this yesterday people they can win elections and build new and modern America? I do not!

Ruger writes:

Sound like we have some ex-MSNBC hosts blogging here.

Does anyone know where does the "buck stops" these days?

http://www.gallup.com/poll/166844/gov...

Concern about unemployment, while up slightly from December, is the same as it was a year ago, and both the economy and problems with government remain top issues.

1Paradiselost writes:

Sounds like we have a looser form the John Birch Society here!

Your not one of those people who hangout in front of the Marco Post office ... Are You?

BTW.. buy a GLOCK... Rugers are for kids!

Konfuzius writes:

in response to Ruger:

Sound like we have some ex-MSNBC hosts blogging here.

Does anyone know where does the "buck stops" these days?

http://www.gallup.com/poll/166844/gov...

Concern about unemployment, while up slightly from December, is the same as it was a year ago, and both the economy and problems with government remain top issues.

Can you explain me, why the USA states govern by Republicans are more worse than the USA states govern by Democrats? And where are the jobs Mr. Boehner promised before the Republicans got the majority at Congress?

Konfuzius writes:

As goes Kansas, so goes the nation?

That's the hope of the Kansas Republican Party, which is seeing a purge of moderates from its ranks as Tea Party-affiliated candidates rise to prominence.

The reality in Kansas::

"A Shawnee County District Court judge ruled Wednesday that William Marotta was more than just a sperm donor, that he is also the presumptive father of a child born to a lesbian couple and is subject to paying child support as sought by the Kansas Department of Children and Families.

In her written decision, District Court Judge Mary Mattivi said that because Marotta and the same-sex couple failed to secure the services of a physician during the artificial insemination process, he was not entitled to the same protections given other sperm donors under Kansas law."

Questions WHY the Republican Party is in downfall?

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