Parties are becoming increasingly ideologically homogeneous, more and more Americans are identifying themselves as independents. An August 2012 Third Way study found that both Republican and Democratic registrations dropped from 2008 to 2012 in five of the eight battleground states that register voters by party, while independent registrations jumped in six of the eight.
In the states wher parties hold closed primaries, the voter pool is more ideologically driven, making it more likely a hard-core liberal or conservative will emerge from the primary, no matter how competitive the district is. That’s true in 24 states for Republicans; 19 for Democrats.
By Bill Schneider, Distinguished Senior Fellow and Resident Scholar at Third Way
What we expect to hear in the closing days of a campaign is a call to arms. Instead, what we’re hearing from both sides is a call to disarm.
“I’m going to have to reach across the aisle and meet with good Democrats who love America just like you love America,” Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told a recent campaign rally in Virginia. “And there are good Democrats like that.”
“In the end, we’re all in this together,” President Barack Obama said at a rally in Wisconsin. “We rise and fall as one nation, one people.”
Why the sudden craving for unity? Because that’s the issue that got Obama elected. He became a star when he told the 2004 Democratic National Convention, “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America. There’s the United States of America.”
Only 5 presidential battlegrounds with partisan voter registration have released early/absentee voting figures by party identification. On average in those 5 states, Democrats maintain a combined edge, although individually the party has an edge in only 4 of 5 states. As of November 1, 2012, 43.6% of the early votes have been cast by Democrats, 36.8% by Republicans, and 19.6% by Independents. Since early voting field operations tend to target partisans and not Independent voters, it is expected that the number of Independents voting early will be considerably less than Democrats and Republicans.
Unfortunately, Ohio does not keep voter registration data by party identification. However, they do report early and absentee voting by county. The most vote-rich county for Obama in 2008 was Cuyahoga—where he garnered 458,422 of his 2,940,044 votes. As of Tuesday, October 30, 2012, 27,865 people had already voted in Cuyahoga County. By comparison, by this time in 2008, 30,850 people had voted, a very slight decrease of 2,985.
In all 12 of the presidential battleground states, Obama maintains leads in polling averages in 9 states and Romney in 3 states. If these polls held on Election Day, President Obama would be reelected with 290 electoral votes and Romney would have 248 electoral votes.
It is difficult to assess how the candidates are performing among Independents in the state polls. Many of the state-level polls do not report data for Independents, have very small sample sizes for their crosstabs, or provide contradictory data.
For example, in Ohio both Quinnipiac and Public Policy Polling released state level data this week. Both had Obama winning the state by 5 points, but Quinnipiac has Romney winning Independents by 6 (49% to 43%) while PPP has Independents evenly split.
The number of registered Independents in the 8 presidential battleground states has increased by nearly 1 million since 2008. During the same time period, Democratic registration has fallen slightly and Republican registration has inched up. In total, since 2008 in these 8 states:
Independent registration has increased 969,589, or 14.4%, and now stands at 7,697,565;
Republican registration has increased by 158,037, or 1.3%, and now stands at 12,047,112; and,
Democratic registration has decreased by 372,827, or 2.5%, and now stands at 14,723,535.
Democratic registration was down over 800,000 in our August voter registration report. Since then, Democrats have added 427,502 to the voter rolls just in these 8 states.
In 6 states—Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania—Independent registration has grown faster than either Democratic or Republican registration. In Iowa, Republicans gained while Democrats and, to a lesser extent, Independents fell. In New Hampshire, voter registration fell across the board, but Republicans shed the fewest voters.
And in 5 states—Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, and North Carolina—Independent registration increased by double digits, the largest a gain of 25.2% in Colorado and the smallest 19.5% in Nevada.
Historically, Independents have tended to split their vote for House members between the Democratic and Republican Parties by only a few points. But recently, Independents have become more volatile. In 2006, Independents voted for Democrats by 17 points. But in 2010, they picked Republicans by 18 points. Independents aren’t party loyalists. They swing between the parties— more dramatically now than any time in the past 30 years.
A review of recent public polling confirms the main findings of our 2012 focus groups: this election features a Democratic President with some of his strongest ratings in national security. This is extraordinary after four decades of Republican dominance on security issues.
Set forth below are the most pertinent findings of recent, publicly available, polling data on national security issues. We offer results for Registered Voters (RV) and, where available, for Likely Voters (LV), Independent (IND) and moderate (MOD) voters.
Here’s a flavor:
International Affairs: Independents trust Obama over Romney on international affairs by 9 points.
Afghanistan: 58% of Independents support the President’s troop withdrawal plan.
Libya: 40% of Independents disapprove of the President’s handling of Libya.
Fighting Terrorism: 51% of Independents trust Obama over Romney on handling terrorism.
Debate season is upon us. And everyone wants to know: what do Independents think and who do they trust?
Recent polling demonstrates that Democratic and Republican voters have dug-in—they plan to support their party’s candidate with very little room for movement. But Independents are still up-for-grabs.
Who are these Independents? Which candidate do they prefer on taxes? What do they think about deficit reduction? What’s their take on Social Security? Third Way’s new memo takes a look at what Independents believe—and who they trust—on major domestic policy issues.
“There are challenges on the left, Politico has a report up today from a democratic think tank Third Way that Democratic registration is down 800,000 since 2008 in big states, including Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Pennsylvania: battleground states. So the new democrat enthusiasm is down. Will they be able to shore up existing democratic enthusiasm? Probably. It’s up to, of course, Republicans to shore up existing Republican enthusiasm. According to this report also, Independents spiking way up.” - S.E. Cupp on MSNBC’s The Cycle