by Dan Lucas
Something significant quietly took place in Oregon a few months ago. The number of small-i Oregon independent voters narrowly overtook Republicans in February 2014. These small-i independent voters are not members of a major party – they are non-affiliated or members of a minor party.
In February 2014 in Oregon, there were 659,233 independents (30.6%), 657,794 Republicans (30.5%) and 836,862 Democrats (38.9%). That trend continued into April. In April, there were 667,491 independents (30.9%), 658,792 Republicans (30.5%) and 833,812 Democrats (38.6%).
This trend in Oregon parallels a national trend. Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian reported back in January that “Nationally, Gallup last month found that 42 percent of voters identified themselves as independents, the highest percentage the pollster has found since it started asking the question 25 years ago.”
The move away from registering with major parties has been growing over the last several decades. Writing back in January on how the number of small-i independents in Oregon had hit 30%, Mapes noted that back in 1960 98% of Oregon voters were registered as either Democrats or Republicans. Today, a little over 50 years later, that number of Oregon voters registered as either Democrats or Republicans has dropped to 69.1%.
Despite not wanting to register as a Democrat or Republican, voters still tend to vote as if they belong to one of the parties. Mapes wrote “Most voters who see themselves as independents tend to vote regularly with either the Democratic or Republican parties.” This is confirmed by analysis of voter registration advantages for either Democratic or Republican districts in Oregon – which are significant predictors of success for Oregon candidates.
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