If there’s one thing we know about the Impeachment debate, it’s this: partisanship prevails. More than 80% of Democrats favor impeachment, and about the same percentage of Republicans don’t. And it’s no mystery why party partisans settle where they do.
It’s a different story among America’s Independent voters. That segment of the electorate is split on Impeachment. To boot, when it comes to a sub-set of Independents—those who don’t lean to one party or the other—we aren’t sure why Independents feel as they do about Impeachment.
Among all Independents, a recent Washington Post and ABC poll found that 49% opposed Impeachment with 47% in favor. Among non-leaning Independents, a recent national NBC-Survey Monkey poll found a 9% gap (53-44%) between yes/no preferences regarding whether Trump should be Impeached and removed from office. That figure is miles away from the yes/no gap among Democrats and Republicans, which runs about 80% in each party (e.g., Republicans, 90% no, 9% yes).
Let’s fill in the gaps and get answers to a fundamental question: Why do Independent voters feel as they do about a variety of issues facing America, including Impeachment?
The NBC-Survey Monkey poll revealed something else. About a quarter of non-leaning Independents don’t support impeachment and also disapprove (rather than approve) Trump’s job performance. That’s a huge difference from how party partisans and party-leaning Independents see things. Of those voters, over 90% of pro-impeachment respondents don’t like the job Trump is doing, while over 90% of anti-impeachment respondents do.
Tantalizing as those poll results are, the findings leave America in a lurch. Despite its size—Gallup’s most recent national survey (October) found that 43% of American voters self-identify as Independents—we don’t know as much about Independent voters as we should.
One thing we know is that Independents are a diverse lot, running the political spectrum from far left to far right. And they don’t always fit the expected profile no matter where they settle along that continuum. I’m an example. As a Progressive, Democrat-leaning voter, you’d think that I’d be in the pro-Impeachment camp. I��m not. That’s because I believe Democrats are spending far too much time on Impeachment and far too little time on national policy matters, especially now that they control the House.
So here’s my plea. Let’s fill in the gaps and get answers to a fundamental question: Why do Independent voters feel as they do about a variety of issues facing America, including Impeachment?
While that question is reasonable to ask, getting answers is a long reach in today’s political environment. Why? I ran a Google search using the keywords, “political scientists’ views of political independents.” Here’s what came up on first-page results: Most political independents actually aren’t. Why the rise of the independent voter is a political myth. Independent voters aren’t really all that independent.
What’s the bottom line? In America today, Independent politics is a quilt of different threads. Many experts/analysis don’t consider Independents to be a legitimate segment of the electorate. At the same time, more and more voters are seeking Independent status. Today, Independent voters constitute (on average) about 30% of the electorate in 32 jurisdictions (states and DC) where a declaration of political preference is included in the voter registration process. That’s about 32 million voters in total. And, as I reported in a recent LAP article, Independents have surpassed Republicans as the second largest segment of the California electorate.
Numbers don’t lie. It’s time to move beyond party myopia and start filling in those blanks.