The 43%: More voters identify at Independent

Posted at 5:29 PM, Jan 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-14 18:32:42-05

If a recent Gallup poll is any indication, both major U.S. political parties are in trouble with American voters.

"Trust in government has gone down quite a bit. People don't trust the government to do the right thing," said Elizabeth Vonnahme, a political science professor at the University of Missouri - Kansas City.

That, she explained, is leading voters away from the traditional two parties.

"What we've seen overtime is an increase and negativity or hostility towards both political parties," said the professor. "So, when you say how do you feel about the Republican [party], how do you feel about the Democratic party, you see this quite negative attitude people have. Those of the individuals who are starting to say well I'm not a Republican or a Democrat, I am an Independent," explained Vonnahme.

THE RESULTS: See Gallup's findings for yourself

Of American voters, 43 percent now identify politically as Independents according to data Gallup collected.

That's a seven-point increase from the previous poll in 2008.

"I actually think that that 43% number is going to continue to rise because you can't produce good policy with a bad process," said Jackie Salit author of Independents Rising.

She's also the president of

"That is the situation that we are in today. We have got to focus on changing the process and make it more democratic, we have to transfer power from the parties to the voters and we need a whole set of structural reforms in order to be able to do that," said Salit.

While some speculate that Americans will increasingly identify as Independents, Vonnahme said they won't likely completely abandon their political ideologies and will still vote in the two party system.

"I don't think this is likely to see the doom of the Republicans or the Democrats but what it says to me is that both parties should take a step back and think about what kinds of candidates are offering what kinds of policies they're offering and their rhetoric," explained Vonnahme.

The recent rise in political independence has come at the expense of both parties, but more among Democrats than among Republicans.

Over the last six years, Democratic identification has fallen from 36 percent -- the highest in the last 25 years -- to 30 percent.

Meanwhile, Republican identification is down from 28 percent in 2008 to 26 percent last year.

"Independents need to be recognized, not as a party because we don't want to be a party, but as a force for democratic change and for opening up the political process so that Americans can come together," said Salit.


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