By: Staff Writer Richard Wheeler
Pew Research asked voters, “Do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or independent?” The answers from 2015 totaled up to 23.7% identifying as Republican, 30.4% as Democrat, and 40.1% as independent. Compare this to the responses from 10 years ago, when 29% identified as Republican, 33% as Democrat, and 38% as independent. Look back another 5 years, and you will find that in 2000 only 29% identified as independent.
What does this trend of growing numbers of independents tell us about American politics? As the Republican and Democratic parties continue to polarize, citizens with cross-cutting views on economic and social issues find themselves unsatisfied with either major party in American politics. This is especially true within the millennial demographic. Millennials turn less to tradition mediums (television, mailing lists, radio) of obtaining information about politics and more towards social media and the internet for their consumption of political information.
The growing number of independents also has allowed for the rise of external actors to exhibit substantial influence on politics. When over 40% of voters identify as independent, there a millions of votes up for grabs in any given election. This has led to the rise of big money politics, where conservatives and liberals both feel that they must spend billions to sway these undecided voters and place their candidate in office. While everyone would be better off not advertising at all, the classic prisoners dilemma leads both conservative and liberal donors to spend an increasingly large amount of money on each election cycle.