The “Moderate Independents” and why they matter

Ideologically moderate and politically unaffiliated, this subsection of the electorate is small – but powerful.

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Over the last several months, frequent headlines point to the increasing number of Independent voters in the country as a tell-tale sign that more of the American electorate is up for grabs. On the other hand, evidence shows that many “Independents” are in fact ideologically conservative and likely to be disaffected Republicans.

Both analyses miss a vital group: True “Moderate Independents – voters who do not align themselves with either party and also consider themselves ideologically between the two parties. Although they comprise just 5 percent of the electorate, they also promise to have outsized impact in 2016.

Who are the “Moderate Independents”?

In a recent poll, Lincoln Park Strategies asked Americans to compare themselves ideologically to both the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress. Overall, 23 percent of Americans rate Republicans in Congress as being less conservative than they are (the “No party for a conservative” group), while just 9 percent of Americans are “Republicans with a home”- people who rate their own ideology as being the same as the GOP. Across the aisle, 11 percent of the country is in line with the ideology of Democrats in Congress (the “Democrats with a home”), while another 19 percent feel that they are more liberal than Democrats (the “No party for a liberal” group).

Meanwhile, a plurality of Americans (24 percent) place themselves in between Congressional Democrats and Republicans. These are the “Stuck in the middle” Americans.

moderate independents

While the chart above seems to imply that close to a quarter of Americans are swing voters, the vast majority of these “Stuck in the Middle” Americans still identify with one of the political parties. Only 27 percent of the Stuck In the Middle cohort say they’re also “Independent” – which translates to just 5 percent of the overall electorate.

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