Independents? In Florida?
Independents helped lift John McCain to victory in Florida. Really. As widely (and accurately) reported, Florida's GOP primary was limited to registered Republicans, so how did independents play such a decisive role?
The answer is a twisted tale of state law, election procedures and survey research. But at root, there is a difference between party registration and party identification.
In some states, voters do not register by party; in others, non-party voters are allowed to participate in nomination contests. And registering for a party is not about subscribing to a fixed set of beliefs; anyone eligible to vote can declare themselves a Democrat or a Republican on the voter rolls.
In contrast to the wide diversity of registration requirements, everyone can have an opinion about whether they are a Democrat, a Republican, an independent or something else. So that is what most pollsters have been asking about since the early 1950s, as have exit pollsters in national elections for the past 36 years.
When someone indicates on a survey that he or she is an "independent," it is about general, or current, orientation to politics, not a declaration of affinity for the "Independent Party." Some registered Republicans and Democrats may choose not to drape themselves in a party label on election day, or even consider themselves closer to the other major party.
This past summer, in partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, the Post released a major survey of political independents. For more information, click here.
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