political scientists have found over and over again that most American independents are independent in name only. As Alan Abramowitz explains, most self-described independents are “closet partisans” who think and act just like people who describe themselves as Republicans or Democrats. It doesn’t make much sense to talk about independents as a group, because the independents who lean Republican and the independents who lean Democratic have more in common with partisans of each party than they do with each other.
That’s why Ruy Texeira argues that Obama shouldn’t waste his efforts trying to court independent voters. Pew data suggests that less than a third of people who describe themselves as independents—or about 13-14% of the electorate—are actually independent. Since those genuinely independent voters are less engaged in politics and are less likely to vote, they typically make up less than 10% of actual voters. While that still could make the difference in a close election, Abramowitz points out that in the last three closely-contested presidential elections, the candidate that won the independent vote ultimately lost the popular vote. Most recently, in 2004, John Kerry won independents, but lost the election. It’s not that independents don’t matter at all. But in close elections turnout of the party base may be more important than the independent vote.
Important. All you left-leaning types on here had better turn out for Obama in 2012!