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Susan MacManus on Independent Voters

Florida's resident political scientist, Dr. Susan MacManus of the University of South Florida has written a column for the Sayfie Review looking at the demographics of Florida's independent voters.   It is definitely worth a read here:  Florida Swing Voters: A Closer Look at NPA Registrants and Self-ID'd Independents.

To me, the two most interesting data points in her paper are that these voters tend to be younger and more Hispanic than the population at large.  Not that this is in any way surprising, though I think it underscores two very important political trends for Florida in the future.  

First, as a society we are going away from traditional civic organizing. For example, citizens under 30 years old are less likely to join a group, go to church, or attend meetings than the same cohert of citizens in the 1970s. This societal shift by nature means a shift away from political party membership.  Therefore, it shouldn't be as a surprise MacManus finds that while 49% of all Florida voters under 50 are registered without party affiliation, 63% of all independents are under 50.   In addition, these voters are harder and harder to find, even as though they vote at similar levels to previous generations of younger voters.

Secondly, MacManus shows that while Hispanics comprise 12% of all registered voters, Florida Hispanics make up 18% of all independents. This trend is emblematic of the larger Hispanic population shifts in Florida, as the growth among Hispanic voters over the last few cycles has leaned significantly more towards non-Cuban Hispanics, who unlike their Cuban counterparts, do not have a traditional GOP lean.  In fact, if 2006 and 2008 showed anything, this growing segment is leaning more Democratic

Further, as MacManus shows, the percentage of self-identified independents is larger than the number of registered NPAs.   Part of this is the nature of politics, part of this is the nature of Florida, where so many in Florida have historical political affiliations that don't necessarily fit the Florida political paradigm (Gulf Coast Republicans from the midwest,  Panhandle Southern Democrats, etc.).

But one thing is for certain, we know that where these voters head will largely dictate where Florida goes in 2010 and beyond.


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