As independent voters’ numbers rise, GOP hurt most

01/21/2014 5:00 AM

01/21/2014 9:01 AM

Fed up with the Democrats and Republicans who run Washington, growing numbers of people are calling themselves independents.

The Republican Party stands to suffer the most from the movement away from staunch party loyalty, but Democrats also are affected.

“This says both parties are dealing with wounded brands,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. As a result, he said, “there are more voters up for grabs.”

Voters are increasingly wary of anyone with ties to the political establishment. A McClatchy-Marist poll last month found 41 percent of registered voters called themselves independent, a much higher percentage than either political party can claim.

Gallup found the independent total last year at 42 percent, the highest since it began asking 25 years ago. One-fourth identified themselves as Republicans, the worst showing during that span. Thirty-one percent said they were Democrats, down 5 percentage points from 2008, when President Barack Obama was first elected.

The impact on next fall’s congressional and gubernatorial elections is hard to gauge precisely. Many voters retain emotional links to political parties and might still be susceptible to partisan pitches. But independents have shown a tendency to move away from candidates they’re uncomfortable with in recent elections, and polls suggest they’re ready to do so again.

The trend arguably has cost Republicans the ability to have more clout in the Senate since 2010, as they’ve lost seats they’d been expected to win. Democrats today control 55 of the Senate’s 100 seats.