A new Pew Research Center analysis points out that last election cycle, more Americans identified as “independents” (39%) than Democrats (32%) or Republicans (23%). Of those independents, 17% leaned Democratic, while 16% leaned Republican.
Pew suggested the biggest reason most independent voters (55% of GOP leaners and 51% of Democratic leaners) lean to a party was because they considered the policies of the other party to be “bad for the country.” Just 30% of Republican leaners and 34% of Democratic leaners said they sided with their party because they agreed with its policies.
Why did these leaners still claim to “independents?” According to Pew, they refused to identify as party members because of frustration with their party’s leadership (52% of GOP leaners and 28% of Democratic leaners) and/or they disagree with that party on important issues (40% of GOP leaners and 33% of Democratic leaners).
Independents are a key – if not the key – swing bloc every election and both parties have opportunities to win over the group in 2016. The winning candidate is likely to be the one that does a better job of discouraging voters from supporting the other party while diminishing their hesitancy to supporting the candidate.