I was reading through data. I found that, when comparing to the national average, in every election since 2008. Here is what I found. Note: EVEN means margin is within one percentage point of the national average. I round down. Presidential election years:

Year, Lean relative to nation
2008, EVEN
2012, R+9
2016, R+7

Midterm elections for House:

Year, Lean relative to nation
2010, R+12
2014, R+2
2018, EVEN

This is according to Wikipedia's entry for each election result. So, it seems that they are, since 2008, at least as likely to vote Republican.

Why is this? Is it because Democrats are more politically engaged despite describing themselves as moderate more than Republicans? Is it because independents are generally weary of progressives even though Bernie Sanders is one? Is it something else?

  • Example for source: go to something like 2012 US presidential election on Wikipedia. Then go to voter demographics/results. You'll see it. Compare with the national margin. Aug 27, 2020 at 12:41
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    I started to write an answer explaining that there are more Democrats than Republican among non-Independants, and thus the vote of non-Independants will lean Democratic ; conversely, Independants' vote would lean Republican relative to nation. But then I noticed that this spread may not have been consistent since 2008. news.gallup.com/poll/15370/party-affiliation.aspx statista.com/chart/22302/party-affiliation-in-2020
    – Evargalo
    Aug 27, 2020 at 13:28
  • Hmmm. That is exactly what I found. A CNN poll showed Biden leading by four but only one among Independents. If that poll were to manifest in popular vote, it would be R+3. Aug 27, 2020 at 13:38
  • I suspect this will be difficult to nail down just because "INDEPENDENT" isn't necessarily splitting the difference between the two parties. There are so many different stances that any independent might have, as well as any variety of reasons why someone previously affiliated with and currently leaning towards a particular party might no longer want to be identified as such. Aug 27, 2020 at 15:26
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    as anecdotal data; I've been voting independent for exactly that time period, I would say that my political beliefs of being leftist haven't been addressed by the democrats for this entire period. Specifically with issues involving climate change. It's not like the republicans are better, but I strongly feel that the democrats have never committed to enough. Normally I favor the green party, but even the libertarians have better climate policy than either of the two main parties.
    – Erin B
    Aug 28, 2020 at 13:08

1 Answer 1


The modern Republican party is the party of "big business, small government" (in very broad terms). An aspect of "small government" is, somewhat ironically, a rejection of political parties in favour of individual action. Thus among the body that identify as "independent" there is a sub-group that are "anti-party, pro-small-government" (again here I'm painting in broad strokes and individuals naturally have a spectrum of beliefs)

This idea was summarised in a comment as "third of independents are republicans in all but name."

This group is most likely to vote Republican in presidential elections, and likely to vote against incumbency, particularly democrat incumbents. The voting of this group can explain some of the movements in your statistics:

2008: no incumbent, Republican candidate was an "insider": General Democrat swing nationally magnified in the independent group.
2010: Democrat incumbent, strong Republican swing among this group.
2012: As 2010
2014: (outlier) It seems that there was low turn-out at this election
2016: no incumbent, but Republican candidate was an "outsider".
2018: Republican incumbent: the anti-incumbent and anti-Trump voters in the independents voting more strongly.

There are other factors and other sub-groups within "independent"

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