Surge in independent voters cuts Dems' edge

In addition, for the first time in 6 years, there are more active Republican voters than active Democrat voters.

By MSNMoney partner Jul 11, 2012 9:23AM

By John McCormick


Independent voters are growing in numbers at the expense of Democrats in battleground states most likely to determine this year's presidential election, a Bloomberg News analysis shows.


The collective total of independents grew by about 443,000 in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and North Carolina since the 2008 election, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from state election officials.


During the same time, Democrats saw a net decline of about 480,000 in those six states, while Republicans, boosted in part by a competitive primary earlier this year, added roughly 38,000 voters in them, the analysis shows.


"Democrats hit the high-water mark for registration in 2008, so it's natural that they are going to see some drop-off," said Michelle Diggles, a senior policy analyst with the Democratic-leaning Third Way research group in Washington who conducted a similar study earlier this year.


The rise of independent voters has had a major impact on recent election results.


In 2008, President Barack Obama won 52 percent of the independent vote, according to national exit polls, which was one percentage point less than his overall total. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, his Republican opponent, collected 44 percent of the independent vote -- 2 points less than his overall total. Independents represented 29 percent of the total electorate that year.

Election Volatility


In 2006, independents backed Democrats by an 18-percentage-point margin nationwide in House races, handing the party control of the chamber for the first time in 12 years. In 2010, they backed Republicans over Democrats in House races by a 19-point margin, as Republicans regained the chamber's majority.


Independent voters are growing in numbers because of dissatisfaction with Republicans and Democrats, Diggles said.


"Independents are really just fed up with both parties," she said. "Most elections are about the center and that's where the swing vote is going to come from."


A Bloomberg survey taken June 15-18 showed 50 percent of independents view the Republican Party unfavorably, while 47 percent say that about the Democratic Party.


"I just want to be able to have the freedom to pick the right person to do the right things for the country," said poll participant Kimberly Sullivan, 27, an independent voter who lives in Nashua, New Hampshire.


The registration advantage in the six battleground states reviewed -- all of which Obama won in 2008 -- is split between Democrats and independents. The states account for 69 electoral votes, with 270 needed to win the White House.


Democrats are the top party in Florida, Nevada and North Carolina, while independents hold that position in Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire. Ohio and Virginia, two other battlegrounds consistently identified by Democratic and Republican strategists, don't report registration statistics by party identification.


The Bloomberg analysis included both active and inactive voters in the states where that distinction was made in the public data because some states don't provide such a breakdown and inactive voters can be restored to active status.


The campaigns for Obama and Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, are already working to register additional voters ahead of November's election and will spend millions of dollars on the task.


Higher voter registration doesn't necessarily translate to higher turnout. In the 1996 presidential election, registration went up and turnout down, while the opposite happened four years later with higher turnout amid lower registration, according to American University's Center for the Study of the American Electorate in Washington.


The registration statistics also should be treated with some skepticism, the center says, because some states do a better job than others of purging the names of people who have died or moved away.


In Florida, the state is in the process of removing noncitizens from state voter rolls even after the U.S. Justice Department cautioned the program may violate federal law. The state, led by Republican Governor Rick Scott, has removed at least 107 alleged noncitizens from its voting rolls after identifying about 180,000 questionable registrations in its database of 11.2 million voters. State officials asked county election supervisors in April to review a list of 2,700 potential noncitizens and remove ineligible voters.


The state won't send any additional names to supervisors until it gets access to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's citizenship database, said Chris Cate, spokesman for Florida's secretary of state office.


Republicans in several states have also pushed for tougher restrictions on voter registration, which Democrats and racial minority groups often characterize as ways of discouraging turnout.


The Republican Party of Iowa last week promoted in a news release the roughly 21,000-person registration advantage its party enjoys in that battleground state among "active" voters -- although independents still outnumber them.


Iowa, as in some other states, breaks down its registered voters by "active" and "inactive" status. Voters can be classified as inactive if a piece of mail has been returned to election officials as undeliverable and for other reasons.


As inactive Democrats have been erased, Republicans this year managed to move ahead with the most active registrations for the first time in six years.


When active and inactive voters are included, the Iowa data shows Republicans have gained about 40,000 registrants since December 2008, while Democrats lost about 70,000.


Obama carried Iowa four years ago, with 54 percent of the vote to McCain's 44 percent.


New voters, especially among minority and youth populations, helped Obama win the White House four years ago, and his re-election effort has started voter registration drives in Hispanic and other neighborhoods in battleground states.

More from Bloomberg

Jul 13, 2012 10:13AM

What is wrong with America!  .......simply - we are too fat, too dumb, too lazy.....complanency!  Immigrants like my parents and grandparents arrived when jobs and opportunities were plentiful.....industry after industry was booming, growing. thriving; all that a person needed was the "desire" to work, the "desire" to overcome obstacles.  Sure, "send us your poor, your hungry, your oppressed," we had room and opportunities for them ALL!  We needed them to grow, to improve, to prosper! ain't so today!  Our cup of benevolence runneth over and over and over.  Greed replaced statesmenship and our elected leaders sold us ALL out!  They created laws and treaties favoring their pet-special interests that exported our industries, manufacturing, intelligence, and security.  They waged war after senseless war that took the lives of too many of our brave young. They represented only their own special hell with the people and with the Constitution!  God Bless THE TEA PARTY!  Yes, America desparetely needs a strong THIRD-PARTY!  Both the Democract & Republican parties are broken beyond repair.  Let the new REVOLUTION begin! GOD BLESS AMERICA! .... Joe Skalamera

Jul 12, 2012 2:25PM
The two major parties are all about fund raising, which is the reason they have become so extreme. A centrist who doesn't demonize the other side would have trouble raising much money.  Making the other guy look like Hitler or Stalin works a lot better to excite the base into opening their wallets.

Recent polls show the majority of those queried about major issues are less than 50% happy with either candidate. Another box option to vote for should be "no confidence". Then, neither gets elected if such option becomes the majority vote. What to do then? 

Jul 12, 2012 9:28PM

We must bring home are wealth creation (manufacturing) from the Red chinese criminals.None of this matters if we have a declining economy. The reason we are in permanent decline is because outsourcing of all American industry. OPEN your eyes people, we have exported are future.STOP the madness  BUY AMERICAN,,,,Comi Red china is are enemy.

All the registered independents I know are hardcore liberals and are too embarrassed to register as a Democrat. I think many of those that are changing to Independent are embarrassed to let others know they support President Obama. Being an Independent does not prevent one from voting either major party in November. Yes, in some states, how one is registered can make a difference of how you vote in the primary. In my state one can only vote for their party in the primary and since I vote for the person I end up changing my party almost every other year. In November I will, as usual, be voting a split ticket. I wish more people would vote for the person rather than the party. 
Jul 12, 2012 9:41AM
If the independents are really fed up with both parties, they ought to vote third party instead of picking the lesser of two evils.
Jul 13, 2012 10:14AM
Ever since the Supreme Court of the USA ruled that money is free speech and corporations are people like the MITT WITT said about BAIN . We have the best government money can buy. Republican or Dem . Like one poster said the Independents need to vote anything other than rep or dem. People of the USA complain about made in the USA ? LOL The olimpic uniforms are made in COMMUNIST China  > And the WAL MARTS of America are filled with the Communist Chinese products. Thats America land of the free? Home of the STUPID... Only in the USA baby...
Jul 15, 2012 9:37AM
I don't understand Independents who would support Jon Huntsman.....why?
Ambassador to China?

Why not Buddy Roemer (R) who understands we have a trade problem?

Actually, no 3rd party could win a presidential election as long as we have the current system and the Electoral College.

Jul 17, 2012 5:02PM
BUY AMERICAN and are economy will get better. Its so simple,open your eyes America. We are at  war with the Comi Red Chinese and are elites fight for the enemy. STOP the outsourcing madness.     We are all AMERICANS and if we BUY AMERICAN we all prosper.
Jul 16, 2012 6:09PM

What a facile analysis.  Independent registrations up, and Democratic ones down, so that must mean the newly minted independents won't vote Democrat.  I bet many of those new independents are fed-up progressives who will support Obama because he's the lesser of two evils.

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