I'm a registered Democrat in Massachusetts, a state with semi-open primaries such that registered voters can only vote in their party's primary, but unaffiliated voters can vote in any primary. I'm not happy with the Democratic Party this election season and want to send a message in the form of having as little to do with them as possible, but I still want to be able to vote in future Democratic primaries. Is there any reason why I shouldn't change my registration to unaffiliated?

  • If you looking for potential legal repercussions you might get better response from law.SE. Do you expect anyone to notice you unregistering? And if they do are you hoping for something better than spam? Keep your registration and send a letter to your party, it's less hassle for much more effect.
    – user9389
    Dec 19, 2016 at 20:28

1 Answer 1


People register with political parties because of that party matches their own internal identity, not (usually) because of strategic or rational reasons.

Political scientists differentiate between two different, but important ideas:

  • Party membership is what party a person formally belongs to.
  • Party identification is what party a person identifies with.

Party identification is psychological. It has to do with accumulation of a person's experiences and thoughts over a lifetime.

Why does party identification matter? Because most people register for the party the identify with, even if they never vote. It isn't the strategic value of being able to vote in a closed primary that drives membership, but a perceived intrinsic link with what that party stands for.

The seminial work on American voting, The American Voter has an excellent section covering party Id and membership. If you'd like to really delve into the subject, that is a great place to start.

  • 1
    This isn't a sociological Q about why people join or identify with political parties, it's a Q about the practical advantages and consequences of joining a party versus not joining in states with semi-open primaries.
    – agc
    Dec 20, 2016 at 9:38
  • In retrospect, I definitely think you are right. I'll leave this answer up in case some weary searcher finds value in it, but odds are I will post a new answer also. Thanks. Dec 20, 2016 at 14:03
  • Also, OP states that he is disillusioned with the Democrats, but does not identify with Republicans either. This seems to be a growing trend, where people declare themselves as independent.
    – jalynn2
    Dec 20, 2016 at 14:29

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