Samara Klar
Samara Klar

People who are surprised at the rise of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders shouldn’t be, because Trump, a Republican, and Sanders, a Democrat, are both anti-establishment candidates who appeal to voters tired of the machinations of political parties, even their own.

So says Samara Klar, an assistant professor in the University of Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy and co-author of a new book, “Independent Politics: How American Disdain for Parties Leads to Political Inaction.”  She will discuss her book at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (Sept. 21) in the Arizona Senior Academy’s Great Room.

This frustration with politics as usual also is reflected in the fact that more Americans now identify as independents than as either Democrats or Republicans. The Gallup Organization tracks independents at 42 percent—the highest percentage in more than 75 years of polling.

The media tend to describe independents as pivotal for electoral outcomes, as if the independent voter is carefully weighing the pros and cons of the candidates in both parties. However, although some independents (around 13 percent) won’t express a preferred party — these people are usually disenfranchised and often don’t vote—the rest are actually closeted partisans.

“We started to think, ‘Why?'” Klar says. “Why does someone who is voting for the same party every year say they are independent? There has to be something that is motivating them to do that.”

Klar and her co-author, Yanna Krupnikov, assistant professor of political science at Stony Brook University, found that Americans view independent voters as more likable, trustworthy and even more physically attractive than Democrats or Republicans. They are preferred over partisans as discussion partners and workplace colleagues.

“By the date of this lecture,” Klar said in an interview in mid-July, “we will have experienced both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions and should have a much better impression of how party adherents and independents will operate during the days up until the election on Nov. 8.”

Written by Charles Prewitt, Academy Village Volunteer

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Why Americans Shun Political Labels: September 2016
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