The Pew Research Center has just released a new study that concludes that a growing number of Americans are choosing not to identify with either political party but consider themselves to be “independent.” However, it says that “rather than being moderate, many of these independents hold extremely strong ideological positions on issues such as the role of government, immigration, the environment and social issues. But they combine these views in ways that defy liberal or conservative orthodoxy.”
The challenge for political leaders, it concludes, is to hold together the disparate groups within their natural constituencies, many of whom may have sharp disagreements with core principles that have defined each party.
There was a time in her life when I believe Elly Peterson would have described herself as a “Main Street Republican,” a phrase Pew now uses to describe about 11 percent of the population. However, while this group is predominately Republican (76 percent), predominately non-Hispanic white (88 percent) and concentrated in the South and Midwest, there the similarities with Peterson’s worldview of 40 to 50 years ago seem to stop. Among other things, the group is “highly critical of government” and opposed to abortion. Twenty-four percent of group members follow NASCAR racing. Continue reading