Among American political scientists and partisans of the Democratic and Republican parties, it is widely held that the so-called “Independent voter” is nothing more than a myth. This might come as news to the millions of Independent voters in the United States. Are you an Independent-in-name-only?Skewed polls, a rigged election system and the systemic bias in favor of the two-party state and ruling political class among American political scientists are just a few of the reasons for skepticism.
Given the growing number of self-described Independents nationwide, the corresponding increase in their political clout, and the well-developed media narratives that seek to pigeon hole them between the Democratic and Republican parties, it is only to be expected that they should encounter increasing resistance – and even outright attacks – from the partisans of the political status quo. One of the most common critiques of Independents states that the Independent voter is nothing more than a myth. Most recently, Alan Abramowitz has sought to “set the record straight” by “correcting myths about Independent voters” in an article for the Center for Politics blog.
“The large majority of independents are independents in name only. Research by political scientists on the American electorate has consistently found that the large majority of self-identified independents are “closet partisans” who think and vote much like other partisans,” writes Abramowitz.
The political science research to which Abramowitz alludes is based to a great extent on a book from 1992: The Myth of the Independent Voter by Bruce E. Keith et. al. The influence of the work is apparent, for instance, in an academic paper published earlier this year in The California Journal of Politics and Policy by Edward L. Lascher, Jr. and John L. Korey. In the paper, entitled “The Myth of the Independent Voter, California Style,” the authors analyze a series of field polls of the California electorate dating back to the early 1980’s and argue that the basic propositions put forward in Keith’s book “generally hold up well.”
Confronting “the sharp rise in the proportion of voters declining to state a party preference and the supposed increasing importance of political independents,” Lascher and Korey advise skepticism on the basis of the fact that 1) the majority of self-described independents “lean toward” one or the other major party and tend to vote in a manner consistent with that leaning, and 2) that the proportion of Independents who do not lean toward either major party has not increased significantly in recent years, even with the increase in Independent identification, and these so-called “pure” Independents tend to be less politically engaged than partisan “leaners.” But how trustworthy are such findings?
The Academic-Partisan Complex: Systemic Bias in Favor of the Two-Party State Taints Political "Science"
From this week's column at CAIVN: