The Independents: Finding a Home for the Dislocated
In conjunction with the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation-Harvard University poll exploring attitudes of political independents, Behind The Numbers will take an in-depth look at each of the types of independents identified in the survey. Today's post focuses on the Dislocated, independents who are largely socially liberal yet fiscally conservative.
In an increasingly polarized political world, Dislocated independents, who make up about 16 percent of all independents, have been left ideologically homeless. More than half are socially liberal and fiscally conservative, a view many feel is not adequately represented by either major party.
But lack of representation does not translate into lack of interest. Sixty-two percent of the Dislocated are very interested in the 2008 presidential election and 65 percent pay a lot of attention to national government and politics.
Taking a deeper look at the issues, the group truly straddles the ideological divide. On gay marriage and abortion they hold more liberal views than many independents, yet unlike most other independents, they feel better represented by the GOP on the economy.
Much more on the Dislocated after the jump.
A lack of common ground with both Democrats and Republicans drives "independence" among the Dislocated. Sixty percent say discomfort with both parties is a major reason they call themselves independent.
Frustration and pessimism also bind Dislocated independents. Three-quarters are dissatisfied with the way the system works, and 64 percent say it does not do a good job handling issues important to people like them.
For many in this group, this systemic failure results from government overreaching: more than half believe that government is doing too many things better left to individuals and private business, and six in 10 say religion should have less influence in politics and public life than it does now.
Like the Disillusioned, the Dislocated feel that greater ballot access for independent candidates for president would improve the political system. But unlike their more jaded counterparts, they also believe the system would get worse if there were no political parties at all.
Six in 10 say there are important differences between Republicans and Democrats, but that does not mean they view the two parties equally.
Dislocated independents are slightly less likely than Deliberators or the Disillusioned to have voted for both parties' presidential nominees in the past. About four in 10 say they more often vote for Democrats than Republicans while 21 percent more often vote for the GOP; and 35 percent have split their votes about evenly.
More than six in 10 say George W. Bush is the worst president of the modern era. Although most did not vote for him in 2004, the war in Iraq seems a likely cause for Bush's poor standing.
Iraq is far and away the top issue for Dislocated independents. When asked specifically about Iraq, 50 percent say it is extremely important, while four in 10 or less say the same of all other issues tested.
More than any other group of independents save Disguised Democrats, the Dislocated agree with the Democratic party on the war in Iraq by a 2-1 margin.
Eight in 10 say the war was not worth fighting, and six in 10 believe the U.S. goal of bringing stability to Iraq is no longer possible. True to their social liberal point-of-view, more than half of the dislocated say the government is not doing enough to protect Americans' civil liberties as it conducts the war on terror.
The Dislocated stand out from other independents in their news-gathering habits, they are more likely to get their political news and information from the Internet. And their Internet usage focuses on mainstream media.
Looking ahead to 2008:
While Dislocated independents are more apt to seriously consider a Democratic or an independent candidate for president next November, a Republican who shares their socially liberal, fiscally conservative outlook could win votes from this segment.
The two Republicans with public images most closely fitting that bill, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, fare much better than their more conservative colleagues. Nearly half say they would never vote for Mitt Romney, four in 10 have ruled out Fred Thompson and nearly three-quarters say no to Newt. By contrast, three in 10 say they definitely would not vote for Giuliani or McCain.
On the Democratic side, the Dislocated are most open to Obama and Edwards and more cautious about Clinton and Gore.
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