The recent Gallup poll saying more Americans identify themselves as political independent doesn’t mean much.
Yesterday Kevin Drum highlighted the new Gallup poll showing that more and more Americans are identifying themselves as political independents rather than Democrats or Republicans. As Drum points out it’s an interesting point from a cultural standpoint, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot when it comes to predicting political outcomes:
But my advice is to ignore the noise. As Gallup itself says, “Although independents claim no outright allegiance to either major party, it is well-known that they are not necessarily neutral when it comes to politics.” Quite so. In fact, “leaners” tend to vote the party line just about as loyally as folks still willing to explicitly call themselves Democrats and Republicans. For most people, identifying as an independent isn’t so much a genuine political commitment as it is a lifestyle statement.
This is exactly right. Back in 2008 I talked to more than one voter in Dakota County Minnesota who would say something along the lines of “I’m an independent, but I’d never vote for a Democrat.” I suppose it’s interesting cultural tick that such a person would say they are a political independent, but from the stand point of how they are going to vote it’s pretty clear that they are a partisan.
People of course have the right to identify as they choose, but the important question in politics is how they are going to behave. A committed socialist who always votes for Democrats in elections is a Democratic voter from a practical standpoint, even if they are still waiting for the revolution.
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