Apr 17, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Record number of Americans say they're politically independent

Share of U.S. adults who identify with select political affiliations
Data: Gallup; Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

We spend our days captivated by people with the most power and the biggest mouths. But it turns out a rising number of Americans want something else — political independence.

Driving the news: Gallup polling last month found that a record 49% of Americans see themselves as politically independent — the same as the two major parties put together.

  • By far the dominant U.S. party isn't Democrats or Republicans. It's: "I'll shop around, thank you."

Why it matters: This trend means rising future challenges to the might and money of the two traditional parties, and helps explain how volatile and evenly split our politics are. There's no sign either will ebb any time soon.

What's happening: Gallup analyst Jeff Jones says a big reason for this change is driven by younger generation.

  • "It was never unusual for younger adults to have higher percentages of independents than older adults," Jones said. "What is unusual is that as Gen X and millennials get older, they are staying independent rather than picking a party, as older generations tended to do."

The big picture: Jones also points to a megatrend — "the disillusionment with the political system, U.S. institutions and the two parties, which are seen as ineffectual, too political and too extreme."

Fun fact: Every election since 2004 — except 2012 — has seen the White House, Senate or House flip control. Antsy, unsatisfied independent voters are the reason.

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