True “independents’ in American politics, who often are portrayed as political free agents, have lower rates of registering and voting.
That’s because many actually lean toward one party or the other, according to a Pew Research Center poll.
“The reality is that most independents are not all that ‘independent’ politically,” the report said. “And the small share of Americans who are truly independent – less than 10 percent of the public has no partisan leaning – stand out for their low level of interest in politics.”
The report said: “Among the public overall, 38 percent describe themselves as independents, while 31 percent are Democrats and 26 percent call themselves Republicans, according to Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 2018. These shares have changed only modestly in recent years, but the proportion of independents is higher than it was from 2000-2008, when no more than about a third of the public identified as independents.”
The survey found an “overwhelming majority of independents (81 percent) continue to ‘lean’ toward either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party.”
“Among the public overall, 17 percent are Democratic-leaning independents, while 13 percent lean toward the Republican Party.”
The poll found 61 percent of true independents register to vote, and only 33 percent vote. Among independents that lean GOP the figures are 73 percent and 54 percent. For those who lean Democrat, 62 percent register and 48 percent vote. For those committed to parties, 80 percent of Republicans register and 61 percent vote, and for Democrats 76 percent register and 59 percent vote.
Those who “lean” generally are in agreement with those who affiliate with that party, the results revealed.
“For example, Republican-leaning independents are less supportive of Donald Trump than are Republican identifiers. Still, about 70 percent of GOP leaners approved of his job performance during his first two years in office. Democratic leaners, like Democrats, overwhelmingly disapprove of the president.”
The poll found independents who are attracted to one party or the other “have a strong partisan imprint.”
“Majorities of Republican and Democratic leaners have a favorable opinion of their own party, and they are almost as likely as Republican and Democratic identifiers to have an unfavorable opinion of the opposing party.
“Those who do not lean toward a party – a group that consistently expresses less interest in politics than partisan leaners – were less likely to say they had registered to vote and much less likely to say they voted. In fact, just a third said they voted in the midterms,” Pew said.
Also, regarding issues of racial equality and women’s progress, “the views of partisan leaners are comparable to those of partisans. Large majorities of Democrats and Democratic leaners say the U.S. needs to make more changes to give blacks equal rights and that significant obstacles stand in the way of women. Most Republicans and Republican leaners say the country has made needed changes to give blacks equal rights with whites, and that the obstacles blocking women’s progress are largely gone.”
On immigration, GOP-leaning independents are slightly more supportive of the idea immigrants strengthen the country, while those in the GOP say they are a burden.