Dear Eliot, I’ll get back to soon about OneMaine

A brief note to Eliot Cutler on party identification

Dear Eliot,

I’m sorry that it took me a few days to discover you had posted a comment to my post on OneMaine. Evidently I don’t monitor this blog closely enough.  After noticing your comment, I saw that you made similar points in your organization’s blog.

I hope to get back to you soon with a response that addresses many of your points. In the meantime, let me just give you a fact check.  You say

Our traditional parties have each drifted further to the right and to the left, all the while narrowing and shrinking to the point where they command the loyalty of maybe 20% of the American people. Yet they continue to exercise extensive control over our political processes, including nominating “major” candidates for public office whom more and more of us view as unrepresentative of who we are, what we think and how we want elected officials to behave.

Gallup data on party identificationYou don’t say what data you are using.  But, based on the usual sources and methods of measuring party identification, that statement is just not accurate.  

As these Gallup data show, the percentage of independents has bounced around, but has never reached 40%. The number of people identifying with a party has always been 60% or more.  That is a far cry from the 20% you cite.  

Now, there are other surveys with different numbers. But even those which show more independents than Gallup don’t indicate decreasing a decreasing connection with political parties.  As political scientists have found, self-proclaimed independents mostly vote in ways indistinguishable from people who say they identify with a political party.  The most influential work on this is “The Myth of the Independent Voter,” a book published nearly twenty years ago. Among the myths surrounding independent voters is that they are, well, independent.  

I look forward to getting back to you soon on, among other things, the Progressive Movement and process-oriented politics.  Thank you for your interest in my views.

On why this matters, see this follow-up post.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.