5 Signs You're an Independent Voter

Are You a Member of the Largest Voting Bloc in the United States?

Independent voters account for about four out of every 10 Americans and together make up a larger voting bloc than Republicans or Democrats. The number of independent voters, or swing voters, in the United States has risen steadily in recent decades. 

So how do you know if you're an independent voter?

Related Story: What is a Swing State?

The most obvious answer is that you're not registered as either a Republican or Democrat because you don't identify with either major party.

But it's a little more complicated than that.

Here's a look at some of the most common characteristics of swing voters in the United States.

Related Story: 5 Most Successful Independent Presidential Candidates in U.S. History

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You Distrust Republicans and Democrats ...

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The primary characteristic running through independent voters is their strong distrust of both major parties. Most independent voters say they're unaffiliated with either the Republicans or Democrats because “both parties care more about special interests than about average Americans,” according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & The Press.

As the Gallup organization stated in 2014: "The rise in political independence is likely an outgrowth of Americans' record or near-record negative views of the two major U.S. parties, of Congress, and their low level of trust in government more generally."

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... But You Still Identify Somewhat With a Major Party

Most independents say they still "lean" Republican or Democrat, according to Gallup. "The majority of Independent voters have political opinions that align with one of the two major parties at least as well as party members," wrote Kimberley Norman and Zachary Zundel​ of the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy.

The researchers found that many independents who leaned toward a party felt strongly about their opinions, in many cases that "the Republicans and Democrats had strayed too far from their historic values," wrote Amy Walter in The Cook Political Report.

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You're Turned Off By Negative Ads

Negative political ads are a fact of political life, campaign consultants will tell you, because they work. Candidates wouldn't spend tens of millions of dollars every election cycle on negative advertising if they didn't work.

Related StoryWhy Political Ads Now Come With Disclaimers

But here's the thing: Negative ads actually have the opposite effect on independent voters.

"Independents are more turned off than partisan voters by negative campaign ads and are more likely to say they want more substantive discussions from the candidates and the media," Linda Killian, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and author of “The Swing Vote: The Untapped Power of Independents,” wrote in The Washington Post. "Independents take voting seriously but are less moved by partisan appeals."

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You're Liberal on Social Issues

When it comes to social issues such as abortion rights and gay marriage, more independents align themselves with liberals and Democrats than they do with Republicans. In a 2014 survey, the Pew Center found that 45 percent of independent voters favored allowing gays and lesbians to get married. Only 20 percent of Republicans supported gay marriage.

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You're Centrist or Conservative on Fiscal Issues

More independents align themselves with Republicans than Democrats when it comes to taxes and spending, according to opinion polls. In the 2014 midterm elections, for example, two-thirds of independent voters said the national debt was among the top three most-important issues. That's higher than among Democrats and liberals.

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Your Citation
Murse, Tom. "5 Signs You're an Independent Voter." ThoughtCo, Aug. 23, 2016, thoughtco.com/signs-youre-an-independent-voter-3367692. Murse, Tom. (2016, August 23). 5 Signs You're an Independent Voter. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/signs-youre-an-independent-voter-3367692 Murse, Tom. "5 Signs You're an Independent Voter." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/signs-youre-an-independent-voter-3367692 (accessed December 12, 2017).