Independent Leaners: Ideals, Myths, and Reality

Helmut Norpoth and Yamil Velez
  • 1 Stony Brook University
  • 2 Stony Brook University


The ideal of the Independent citizen has not fared well in survey research. The study of party identification recast Independence from parties as a weakness rather than strength. Others, however, have derided the gloomy findings about Independents as a myth; those Independents who profess partisan leanings appear to deserve better. Our examination of partisan leaners then and now finds that, oddly enough, the gloomy conclusion about Independents then was off the mark. In 1952, partisan leaners surpassed party identifiers in being politically involved and informed. Nowadays, however, the reverse is true. The partisan leaners, let alone pure Independents, have handed over the edge on positive qualities to party identifiers. We surmise that these changes have occurred due to increased polarization. Nonetheless, then and now partisan leaners prove far too volatile to qualify for the long-term partisanship that is found among party identifiers.

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This journal provides a forum for professionally informed commentary on issues affecting contemporary American politics. This includes but is not limited to issues engaging parties, elections, and political participation; the news media, interest groups, Congress, the Presidency, and the Courts; trends in public finance, presidential popularity, congressional productivity; in contemporary, historical, or comparative perspective.