Do "independents" = moderates? Swing voters?

I’ve been seeing a lot of arguments like “80% of independents in this state believe this candidate” or “50% of independents believe that” that imply that moderates or swing voters are leaning a certain way. I wonder what these stats actually mean.

Assuming these numbers are coming from real polls, who is considered independent? I would think that it’s people registered to vote as independent, maybe also including those registered for a third party.

Are independents really the same as moderates? Are they undecided/swing voters?

It seems to me that there could be enough anti-government types or other fringe elements who identify as independent that they don’t represent moderates very well. At the same time, being independent doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is swingable. For example, it doesn’t really tell us anything about swing voters if a tea partier doesn’t identify as Republican, but that they think that Romney is better on tax policy.

Interesting questions. Some states don’t even have voter registration by party, so I assume much of this is coming from actual voting histories, especially primaries. If you vote in a primary election, you’ve got to pick a party. So maybe those people are eliminated from the overall voter registration lists?

To me the term moderate and independents are totally different.

The term moderate refers to the center of the liberal - conservative scale which in broad terms goes very liberal - liberal - moderate - conservative - very conservative.

The term independents simply indicates no affiliation with a political party.

Ergo there can be liberal independents (like myself) or very conservative independents. I would guess in general that there is a tendency of moderates to also be independents but they are not really interchangeable terms though they are often used as such.

The fact that different polling houses come up with very different results for “independents” suggests strongly that they define the term differently amongst themselves.

I assume it is a question: How do you identify as a voter? But worded in variable ways. Self-identified moderates may identify strongly as one or the other party. Very liberal or conservative in any dimension may not identify with any party. Apathetic may be more likely to not identify with any particular party as well and “independent” may oversample the non-likely voter for that reason.

I would say independents are not necessarily moderate but don’t agree with the whole of either party’s platform. Fiscally conservative & socially liberal, for example.

Good article.

I am an independent, I typically vote republican. I just so happen to hate many of the republican options made available to me (namely Jan brewer and Joe arpaiao) and I would vote for a moldy piece of cheese before I would vote for them.

I think the independents are more often on the radical fringes and are thus repudiated by both parties attempting to win the popular vote. Winning is less about convincing moderates ambivalent about each major party than convincing them not to remain at home or vote for a third party candidate.

Thanks for the link.

Without more detail about how a poll defines independents, you can’t really draw much of a conclusion about what that group means.

I was registered as independent for a long time, though I never voted Republican. If the Democrat was particularly undesirable, I would go with someone else. In an extreme case, I could have considered a Republican. But that never came close to happening.

Mostly I was independent because of some feeling that I didn’t want to owned by anyone. (Ah, youth.)

This sums up my situation. I am pretty liberal, both socially and fiscally, and generally vote Democratic. However, I have sufficient points of disagreement with some aims of the Democratic Party–or at least, those of some Democratic elected officials–that I am reluctant to be identified as a member. I don’t want to give the appearance of tacit agreement with things I actually oppose. I am currently reviewing that decision; I may decide that it is of more value to me to participate in Democratic primaries than to remain statistically unaffiliated.

There are some genuinely independent voters just like there are some moderate voters. But in general, independent voter is a nice way of saying politically uninformed, disconnected or stupid voter.

The independent voter is likely to be swayed by a candidate refusing to release his tax returns or even worse, that candidate paying lower taxes than working class Americans. The liberal voter already knows that candidate’s tax policy as spelled out in black and white on his Web site, and wasn’t going to vote for him anyway. The conservative voter also knows this, but is voting for him because of it. Only the independent voter is actually swayed by something as stupid as one person’s tax rate when that same person’s plan for all 300 million Americans is plainly available.

Independent voters care about things like a candidate not wearing a flag pin, even though he did, and his opponent often didn’t.

Independent voters make up their mind based on a candidate saying insulting things about free loading deadbeat Americans, even though all his policies implied he held that opinion all along.

It’s almost tautological - you have two candidates with drastically different positions on the vast majority of issues. It’s incredibly easy to find out what their positions are. If you are able to do that and to understand the issues, you’ll make a decision and be for one of the two candidates. That leaves relatively few people who’re still independent. Most of those people, for whatever reason, can’t understand the clear meaningful differences between the candidates and that leaves them to decide based on the stupid shit our media reports on.

That doesn’t cover 100% of independents but it covers most of them.

I’m a liberal independent voter.

I have an odd view of belonging to a party, I think if you declare party allegiance, you should be faithful to the party. So while I generally vote for Democrats (for the last 20 some years, before that I generally voted for Republicans), I won’t call myself a Democrat because I want the freedom to fill in the box for whomever I choose.

I’m not much of a swing voter. Like others, I have significant issues with certain issues or policies that also keep me from party identification. And there are Democrats where I’d vote for a moldy piece of cheese over the guy with the D by his name.

My husband spent some time concerned that I might vote for Romney - back when I thought he might head towards the middle and turn out some policy positions I agreed to, I was open to the thought. That hasn’t happened.

To counter what Fuzzy wrote, the self proclaimed independents that I know personally are very much political / news junkies. They claim independence because they have personal laundry lists of beliefs that are not reflected by either party in whole. The classic socially liberal / fiscally conservative combination is one example. Consequently, they also do not want to be identified by party label because there is plenty they disagree with in each party.

Anecdotally, one I know sounds like a tea bagger most of the time, but voted for Obama and says he will again. He says he’s weighed all of his beliefs, prioritized them, and concluded that a Democrat in the White House will move things in the right direction. However, he does like having the other party dominant in Congress to balance things out, although he disagrees with their scorched earth opposition.

So, there you go.

Alternatively, you could make the case that the policies on a candidate’s web page are sanitized, vague, designed to cynically appeal to a given demographic and unlikely to actually represent the true policies of the candidate once elected.

But running on a platform of claiming that taxes are too high for “job creators”, proposing tax reforms that cuts those taxes while increasing the burden on the middle class, and then not releasing one’s tax returns – well, that sounds like a pretty good indication of the candidate’s character and trustworthiness. More so if that candidate scrutinized their VP choice’s returns for the past ten years.

So you could make a case that the true independents are actually those who spend more time actually making a decision rather than reflexively voting the same way their parents did.

I am so glad to have always lived in states that allowed me to vote in primaries without actually affiliating with a party. I have voted in both Democratic and Republican primaries, depending on where the action was. I want to see the best possible candidates from both sides in the general.

I’m an independent. I’ve been registered as both a Democrat and a Republican in the past, but I’ve always voted for Democrats. Since California recently changed the rules about voting in primaries, I’ll probably register as a Republican next time (As far as I can tell, the only reason to register with a party is to vote in their primaries, and I’d rather try to vote for sanity in the Republican party than choose between several Democrats, all of whom are more or less acceptable to me).

I’d consider voting for Republicans more if they dropped their bigotry and attempts to write Christianity into law, but until then, I vote for Democrats, even though I don’t really care for their economic policy. I just think that civil rights and separation of church and state are way more important issues.

I don’t think you can make that case. Besides their Web site was just one example. They’re in the news constantly and they have very different visions for America.

I don’t see it. If you believe the job creator trickle down nonsense, you’re not going to support someone who is opposed to lower taxes for the ultra rich just because the other guy managed to pay low taxes. And if you know the trick down stuff is bs, your mind was made up already. You weren’t independent already.

People who are actually evaluating the candidates and their positions should be able to decide easily. Obama has been president for 4 years and Romney has been running for president for 7 years. People who are still independent in late September, are most likely not paying attention or genuinely don’t understand what’s going on.

I think some of the so-called “undecided” voters are just of the don’t-ask-don’t-tell school. They don’t like to discuss politics and may claim to be independent or undecided when in fact they know full well what they’re going to do. They just don’t want to share it.

It likely depends somewhat on where one lives. The majority of Alaskans are registered as Independents, but it’s largely because they see themselves as some sort of rugged individualists. :rolleyes: Most of them are Republicans and vote that way.

Independent doesn’t mean undecided. It means not beholden.

Most Independent voters know exactly who they are going to vote for by now.

Here is the difference. Four years ago, Obama was elected, and my husband, a Democrat, knew whom he was going to vote for this year (baring unforseen circumstances). He knows not whom he will vote for four years from now, but he knows where he’ll be marking his ballot.

Four years ago, I cast my vote (for Obama) and said “I’ll reevaluate over the next four years.”