Independent voters are few and much between, have great influence in close elections – and are difficult to achieve for election campaigns

Throughout the 2024 election campaign, campaign strategists, pollsters and political scientists have been closely monitoring independent voters.

The yr began with a Gallup report from January 2024 that said 43% of Americans describe themselves as politically independent – no matter whether or not they are registered as voters as members of 1 party or one other. Various media reacted with statements that “Independent voters dominate the USA” and descriptions of how Joe Biden and Donald Trump “on the hunt” for supporting independent. Other publications more generally speculated about how the seemingly large variety of independents shape the electoral landscape in 2024because their voting behavior could also be difficult to predict.

These prospects point to a really close presidential election, prone to be decided by very narrow majorities in a handful of Swing States – The Swing States. A key task for the Biden and Trump campaigns might be to mobilize their voter bases and maximize turnout amongst their most ardent supporters. But that base is unlikely to be enough to secure victory for either candidate. Both candidates will try to influence voters who’re still “in the sport“ – namely independent voters.

Every latest development within the election campaign can raise questions on independents: Some of the early media comments Regarding Trump's capital crime convictions in New York, there have been suggestions that the decision could cause independent voters to show away from Trump.

It seems that independents are essential – even for political scientists like Me. But why?

Small numbers, potentially big impact

On the one hand, the independents are essential because there sometimes appear to be so lots of them. But this can be a point of contention amongst academics and election experts.

Gallup's January 2024: 43% of voters who discover as independent were based on responses to a single poll query. Many polling firms, including Gallup, ask self-identified independents a follow-up query asking whether or not they ever feel closer to or “lean” toward the Democratic or Republican Party. Many independents admit to leaning toward either party, leaving a much smaller variety of “pure” independents. By this measure, Gallup's estimate of independents was 43% to 12% the US electorate.

But even this small share could make an outsized difference in a rustic that elects its president through the Electoral College: In 2020, the margins of the swing states were significantly lower than 12 percentage pointsAnd polls show that Biden and Trump are virtually tied in a lot of the 2024 swing states, so changes within the preferences of even very small groups of independents may very well be crucial to the end result of the election.

The latest New York Times/Siena College pollwith interviews from April 28 to May 9, 2024, including special surveys at state level in six swing states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It seems that Trump has a cushty lead over Biden amongst independents in Nevada and Georgia, but is virtually tied in the opposite swing states.

It also emerged that double-digit percentages of independents support independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., particularly 20% of independents in Pennsylvania. Of course, the query stays whether Kennedy will actually appear on the ballots in these swing states; since June 1, he has been confirmed that he only performs in MichiganIf Kennedy is just not on the ballot in November, his current supporters can have to decide on another person – or select to not vote in any respect.

All of those aspects suggest there might be a energetic campaign for independent voters in swing states in the approaching months. But it's demanding to say what’s going to attract their attention or support.

A special form of voter

People who claim to be independent but in point of fact lean towards one party or the opposite are not particularly independent but slightly very just like those that discover more strongly with this party.

Pure independents – those that don’t feel any affiliation with any party – are a distinct matter entirely. Although relatively few in number, they distinguish themselves in ways in which pose real challenges to campaigns searching for their support.

Perhaps most significantly, pure independent voters are simply less prone to vote than those that reveal some level of partisan affiliation. In the 2020 presidential election, reported turnout amongst pure independents was about 20 percentage points lower than the turnout of other voters, including independent voters who’re inclined towards a celebration.

One reason for this may very well be that pure independents are likely to be postpone by party political conflicts and party attributions. Declaring independence in a poll is one technique to distance oneself from party political disputes. A series of imaginative experiments by political scientists, for instance, Samara Clear And Janna Krupnikow noticed, that Self-proclaimed independents preferred photos of neighborhoods that didn’t display political yard signs than the identical photos of the identical neighborhoods with houses that did display political yard signs.

Five figures in a row, two holding black umbrellas on either side of a figure holding a red umbrella.
For some politically independent people, independence is an identity in itself.
Egoitz Bengoetxea Iguaran/iStock via Getty Images Plus

For these study participants, independence is just not simply the absence of party ties but an identity with meaning in its own right. They reject party labels and partisan hatred, meaning that the sorts of messages that may motivate the Democratic and Republican base usually tend to strike independents as unwanted partisan vitriol.

Research shows that at the least some pure independents try Avoid political conversations or interactions of virtually all kinds. They subsequently pose a serious dilemma for election campaign strategists: the very voters they should mobilise to form a winning coalition often is the most difficult to achieve.

Independents differ from other voters in various other ways which are also prone to increase pressure on candidates and their campaigns. People who discover as independent, even when they have a tendency to are likely to be less politically engaged and pay less attention to campaigns than individuals who discover as partisan. They are also less likely to interact in partisan social media. Overall, independents use fewer online sites and platforms where campaigns can reach them.

At the identical time, the independents less captured by partisan or ideological media echo chambersthey’re potentially vulnerable to calls to vote and requests to vote.

Perhaps probably the most succinct description of independents in 2024 is that they’re highly valued and elusive. The voters Biden and Trump need most may prove to be the toughest to achieve.

image credit :