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Independent Voters and the 2024 Election

For a growing number of Americans, the two-party system is losing its luster.

By:  |  May 20, 2024  |    696 Words
GettyImages-2074403084 (1) independent - voting booth

(Photo by Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu via Getty Images)

More people appear to be getting sick of the two-party system that seems to force them to pick one of just two options, regardless of how they actually feel about the official party nominees. Despite not having a candidate for president in this year’s election – or, for that matter, the fact that it isn’t quite a political party, strictly speaking, as a 501(c)(4) “social welfare organization” – the No Labels movement gained traction as voters felt frustrated and disillusioned by the standard choice between Republicans and Democrats. While independent voters are nothing new, the way they may be able to sway the 2024 presidential election just might be.

The Power of the Independent

Independent voters first outnumbered supporters of both dominant political parties in 1991 and have, for the most part, continued to do so. “Over time, the increase in the percentage of independents has come more at the expense of Democrats than Republicans, which might be expected since Democrats were previously the largest political group,” Gallup reported in January. Furthermore, in 2023, independents comprised the largest political bloc, making up about 43% of the voting population. This group has remained at 40% or higher since 2011, except for in 2016 and 2020.

In Arizona and Nevada, the independent voter was the largest bloc of registered voters through most of this year. A Florida International University poll found that 13% of Hispanic voters didn’t think either of the two big parties represented their values, and one-in-five respondents considered switching their party last year: either from Democrat to Republican (38%) or to independent (23%). In New Hampshire, there isn’t an option specifically for independents, but there is an “unaffiliated” choice, which around 40% of the state’s voters chose. In the primary these voters cast 70% of their votes for Nikki Haley.

According to a Tampa Bay Times report, 42% of newly registered Hispanic voters in the past four years registered as no-party. “There’s a lack of confidence in political institutions generally,” Eduardo Gamarra, the co-director of Florida International University’s Latino Public Opinion Forum, told the outlet. “And they don’t see Democrats or Republicans as really providing them with an option.”

Registered independent voters still tend to lean either Republican or Democrat, and it has been pretty much consistently split between the two; independents polled by Gallup leaned Democrat by 45% and Republican by 44%. When Gallup asked respondents if they considered themselves Republican, Democrat, or independent, 41% said independent, 30% Republican, and 28% Democrat.

Will independents have an outsized effect on the 2024 presidential election? Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster and lecturer at the University of Florida, seems to think so. He told Tampa Bay Times: “They are the fastest growing segment of the electorate in Florida and they can prove decisive in a lot of races, particularly in those races that are going to be decided by less than 10 percentage points.”

GettyImages-2074402885 (1) voting

(Photo by Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu via Getty Images)

A recent Harvard-Harris poll indicated that nearly 80% of independent voters want more choices than just Joe Biden or Donald Trump.

As we near Election Day, the parties are closely matched based on identification and leanings. “However, Democrats are clearly in a weaker position than they have been in any recent election year,” Gallup explained. Part of the reason is a new low percentage of adults identifying as Democrats and the advantage Republicans have been gaining. “In the past four presidential election years, Democrats had at least a five-point advantage in leaned party identification,” Gallup added. “independents will remain the largest, and arguably most persuadable, group of voters. In what is expected to be a close election contest, it is critical for each party, but especially Democrats, to nominate a candidate who can appeal to independent voters.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently won a spot on the ballot in California. He also secured access in Michigan and Utah and is expected to do so in another seven states. As an independent, he is gaining traction. For voters who want nothing to do with either Biden or Trump, Kennedy certainly has an appeal. Even if many do not opt for a third option, however, independent voters may well be the deciding factor come election day.

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