I'm registered currently as an independent. On social issues I mostly support one side, but I lean towards the other side on many other issues; and ultimately I have no strong allegiance to either party and am frustrated whenever I see views that seem partisan or too extreme to either side, in short I think I truly am an independent at heart, not just on paper.
However I live in Maryland, which has closed primaries for both parties and the state will always vote Democrat for presidential elections; which leaves me feeling that being an independent removes my voice. Even if I choose to support a Republican candidate, I have no chance at all of changing the outcome of my states final vote. If I were registered Republican or Democrat, I could at least vote in the primaries, and in so doing have a say on which candidates are chosen to compete for the presidency, but as an independent I am not allowed to vote in either sides primaries.
So I'm wondering if there is an advantage to staying true to my actual political views and staying an independent, as opposed to picking one side at random to register as so I can have some sort of say in presidential elections via voting in the primaries.
I had thought at one time that independents represented the swing vote either side needed to win, and as the 'king maker' in elections we would thus be the ones that had to be courted and listen to by politicians. In that sense I figured that the mere act of being registered as an independent may affect the vote, because the more of us independents out there the more likely candidates would moderate their platform to recognize the needs of that swing-vote demographic and stick to more centralist policies.
Lately I feel that isn't the case. It seems primaries are won by being the one that your hard-core party types like the best, which is not always the same as being the one that stands the best chance of actually becoming president. Thus the only way to win the primaries is to be the most Democratic or Republican you can be; not to moderate your platform. By the time the politician is running for president officially he already has been selected for a platform that is likely non-centralist. It's too late to change that platform, even if the politician were willing to do so, and thus there is limited options to address the independent's needs, at least without reneging on your platform and promises.
Does anyone have any studies or other sources which may demonstrate any positive effects for registered independent voters (such as encouraging more centralist tendencies), and, if so, does the research show whether this tendency is affected by whether the independent is in a swing state? Are there any other pros to being independent?
I sort of would rather stay independent, both because it's more honest and because I kind of prefer not to have the moral obligation of participating in primaries, since I generally hate all politics and view political debates as an exercise in saying nothing as prettily as possible. I vote out of civic obligation only and am not that offended by not participating; but at the same time if I could better serve my civil obligations by choosing a political party (with a coin flip) I would do so.
All answers are welcome, but I'm the sort of person who spends time on Skeptics, so I love sources and statistics if anyone wishes to include them as well :)