Saturday, August 18, 2012

2012 Presidential Election: Who Are the Independents That Will Determine the Election?

Hey-Ho Hanksteristas! This week's attacks in the mainstream media/academia against independents gave me pause. I thought about Fred Newman, my long-time friend and colleague, who died last July. Newman was the leading political strategist behind and architect of the current US independent political movement. I thought about the increasing psychologicalization of politics and the inherent politics of psychology (and every other field of study, for that matter!)

It seems rightful that as more and more Americans identify as independents (aka quitting the parties) the existing powers and institutions that be, including the ubiquitous corporate American press, would conduct studies to prove that independents are not really independents. After all, that's the function of established institutions -- maintain the status quo.

There is a vital and growing independent movement in the country (I highly recommend the historical account from Jackie Salit in her new book Independents Rising -- a down-to-earth primer on the history of the movement.

Not only are Americans increasingly declaring their disassociation from the major parties, in fact seems they don't like parties at all!

Bring it on!

  • Dem registration down in key states (By CHARLES MAHTESIAN, Politico) A new report on voter registration trends finds that Democratic voter registration is down by more than 800,000 since 2008 in eight key battleground states. GOP registration has also declined — but by only 79,000, a tenth of the Democrats’ losses. Meanwhile, registered independents are on the rise, increasing their numbers in those states by nearly half-a-million.
  • Just How Independent Are Independent Voters? (Sam Sommers, Professor, Tufts University, Huffington Post) New research just published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that Independents may not be quite as independent as they claim they are. Across a series of studies, researchers at the University of Virginia presented respondents with different policies to evaluate and examined the extent to which political affiliation colored their perceptions.
  • Obama’s costly investment not yielding new voters (Brian C. Mooney, Boston Globe)
  • In Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado, and Nevada — tossup states where direct election-year comparisons could be drawn — the numbers are striking. Democratic rolls increased by only 39,580, less than one-tenth the amount at the comparable point in the 2008 election. At the same time, GOP registration has jumped by 145,085, or more than double for the same time four years ago. Independent registration has shown an even stronger surge, to 229,500, almost three times the number at this point in 2008.
  • Few Voters Are Truly Up for Grabs, Research Suggests (By REBECCA BERG, NY Times)  “There is so much pop psychology surrounding swing voters, but there is very little evidence that there are key demographics in the population that are inherently swing voters,” said John Sides, an associate professor of political science at George Washington University... Part of the difficulty in identifying swing voters derives from confusion about the term “swing voter” itself. These voters might describe themselves as “undecided,” for example, or as “persuadable.” Often, they call themselves “independents,” although many who identify that way are not. Myths about the behavior of these voters are pervasive and persistent: For example, that undecided voters break for the challenger as Election Day nears. (Data have shown this is often not the case.)
  • Will the real independents please stand up? (Phys Org) Psychological scientists Carlee Beth Hawkins and Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia decided to use a tool called the Implicit Association Test, or IAT, to explore the unconscious biases that churn deep inside the Independent mind.

Democalypse 2012 - Cockblock the Vote - Ohio's Voting Laws (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) Stewart calls for nonpartisan elections after flap with Ohio partisan voting hours. [SEE BELOW] Fewer citizens voting doesn't enhance democracy, but it does secure the power of the parties...


richardwinger said...

If independent voters caused Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton for the 2008 Democratic nomination, and if independent voters caused Obama to beat McCain, and if independent voters caused the Republicans to win congress in 2010, then obviously independent voters are the most powerful people in the nation. They are the only group that wins all elections. So if independent voters are the most powerful voters inside a partisan election system, what's the beef? Independent voters are doing great under our existing election system, right?

wjk said...

Richard raises an interesting, and difficult, problem. To whom does the label 'independent' refer? While the label stays the same, are the actual voters who helped Obama beat Clinton, Obama beat McCain, and yet helped the Repubs win Congress the same folks, or are they shifting sands beneath a stable label?

Nancy Hanks said...

wjk -- that's one of the problem with labels, in my opinion. Labels aren't people. People make all kinds of decisions moment-to-moment, and people who self-identified as independents said they voted for Obama in critical primary and general elections. These are the same people who decided they didn't like the partisan political stance that the Democrats, now in power, took, once in power.

The other problem I see with labels is that it's the pundits, the media, the psychologists, etc. who come up with those labels. I would be that to most independents, the label they are looking for is "human being."

Nancy Hanks said...

Sorry for the typos in my comment -- I would bet that to most independents, the label they are looking for is "human being."