What do independent voters want? MORE CHOICES!

Independent Center Contributor Gabriel Mitchell

“Because to take away a man’s freedom of choice, even his freedom to make the wrong choice, is to manipulate him as though he were a puppet and not a person.” ― Madeleine L’Engle  (2008). “The Young Unicorns”, p.202, Macmillan

Americans who identify as Independent make up over 40% of registered voters. These types of voters are a hard bunch to study. What do independent voters want? By definition, they all hold unique belief systems that aren’t easy to fit in a box. However, our research at the Independent Center (download it here) suggests at least one common theme: On nearly every subject independent voters want to increase their choices. They want more choices in candidates and they want more choices in their solutions to policy problems.

The fact that independent voters want more choices in their candidates should be no surprise. If they liked what the two-party system presented to them, they wouldn’t be independent. 

What does the data say about this?

When rating their opinions of the two major political parties, independents overwhelmingly expressed dissatisfaction. Specifically, we gave them a randomized list of officials and entities in the US and asked them to “[…]please indicate whether you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of each.”

A bar chart titled 'Favorability of Elected Officials & Entities Among Independent Voters.' It shows four sets of bars representing percentages of responses: 'Very Favorable,' 'Somewhat Favorable,' 'Somewhat Unfavorable,' 'Very Unfavorable,' and 'Unsure.' The 'Very Favorable' category has very low percentages, with the blue bar slightly higher than the red. 'Somewhat Favorable' sees the blue bar at 31% overtaking the red. 'Somewhat Unfavorable' is equal for both colors at 26%, while 'Very Unfavorable' has a blue majority at 36%. 'Unsure' is the least, with the blue bar at 7%. Blue represents one political group, red another, indicated by small icons of an elephant for the blue and a donkey for the red.

Perhaps this is why when asked “Do you believe that your voice and opinions are being heard in Washington, DC by your elected representatives?” 66% of voters told us, “No!”

Independent voters want more choices in their candidates who have a real chance of winning. They directly told us so when we asked “Would you like to see a viable third-party candidate run for President in 2024?”

A pie chart divided into five segments showing the responses of independent voters to the question 'Do you believe that your voice and opinions are being heard in Washington, DC?' The largest segment is 'No, Strongly' at 37%, followed by 'No, Somewhat' at 29%, 'Yes, Somewhat' at 19%, 'Unsure/Depends' at 13%, and 'Yes, Strongly' at 2%. The chart has a purple and black color scheme.

The two-party system is not serving their needs and Americans want something new.

However, the want for more choices doesn’t stop with candidates.  

Choice is an important aspect of how independent voters evaluate public policy. We asked, “Which of the following do you believe would make the government more effective?” Given the choices, voters told us they wanted to see reforms that mix private and public solutions. 

A bar chart with the title 'What would make the government more effective?' It displays three options: 'Growing and investing more in gov't-run programs and regulations' at 19% in blue, 'Reforming gov't programs to offer more choice with competition from the private sector' at 40% in purple, 'Reducing and eliminating gov't-run programs and regulations' at 20% in red, and 'Unsure' at 21% in black.

It’s not that independent voters are all pushing for total unregulated capitalism in everything, it’s that they don’t want to be stuck with a single monopolistic solution, rather it’s a governmental or private market monopoly. 

We can see this play out in how independents evaluate health care and education policy. In both cases, they want a mixed solution that gives citizens a choice between government and private services.

For education, we asked, “Which of the following do you believe would make our educational system more effective?”

A bar chart titled 'What would make our educational system more effective?' shows three responses: 'Growing and investing more in government-run public schools' at 37% in blue, 'Reforming education to give parents vouchers to choose public or private options' at 51% in purple, and 'Eliminating public schools and providing funding to parents to select whatever private options they want' at 12% in red.

For healthcare, we presented the statement, “Medical coverage is a necessity for everyone eventually,” and then asked them to pick which of the following three responses best aligned with their view on the subject.

A bar chart titled 'What would be the most effective solution for our healthcare system?' It displays three policy options: 'The Gov't should manage public medical centers paid by contributions to a mandatory public health insurance' at 13% in blue, 'The Gov't should guarantee universal access to health care centers using some sort of public funding' at 52% in purple, and 'The Gov't should not manage medical centers. Medical facilities should be private' at 35% in red.

On both of these policy subjects, voters want to have the choice between private and public solutions. They want the government to have a hand, especially in funding, but don’t want to see regulations pushing out the market-based options. 

The message from independent voters is crystal clear: they are fed up with the status quo and hungry for more options. Their dissatisfaction with the two-party system and the current policy-making process is a loud call for a political overhaul. It’s time for DC to listen and introduce a political landscape that mirrors the complexity and diversity of the populace it aims to serve.

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