The rise of the independents

A 165 page Pew Survey on party affiliation has brought bad news to both Republicans and Democrats.

The poll shows a huge increase in the number of people who identify themselves as "independents" while those saying they are Republicans or Democrats fell dramatically.

John P. Avalon reports for the Wall Street Journal:

This is evidence that President Obama's election does not represent a liberal ideological mandate, as House Democrats have claimed. It also shows continued rejection of the Republican brand.

On virtually every policy issue, independents are situated between increasingly polarized Democrats and Republicans. They more accurately reflect centrist national attitudes than the 11% of Americans who describe themselves as liberal Democrats or the 15% who call themselves conservative Republicans.

Independents are nonideological problem-solvers, but they do not have a split-the-difference approach to politics. They are fiscally conservative but socially progressive, with a strong libertarian streak. It's on fiscal issues that independents are putting the Obama administration on notice.

Bailout backlash is reflected in independents' attitude about the expanding social safety net. Just 43% believe that we "should help more needy people, even if it means going deeper into debt" -- down 14 points over two years. Independents' belief that "labor unions are necessary to protect the working person" has declined 23% since 2003. They are closer to the Republican view that government is usually wasteful and inefficient.

Independents are now the youngest voting block overall: 44% of Americans born after 1977 identify as independent. Republicans are the oldest voter cohort, with just 19% of those born since '77 identifying with the GOP. Demographics are destiny.

Indeed. Only 33% identify themselves as Democrats, down from 39% right after the election. And the pathetic numbers for the GOP - 22% down from 26% from last November - show that despite the move away from the Dems, Republicans still have a long way to go before the people will accept them as a viable alternative to the Democrats.

America is changing. The bad economy is exposing the fault lines between the parties and Republicans have a golden opportunity to win back what they have lost over the years due to their profligate spending and corruption.

As the Journal article notes, Americans do not want big government, giving the lie to the Congressional Democrats (and Colin Powell) who believe otherwise. It is this issue - bread and butter conservatism all the way - that can attract a majority of voters and put the GOP back on top again.

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky

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