In conjuction 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 Deliberators, the classic swing voters.
Deliberators, comprising 18 percent of independents, are the archetypal independents. They believe in the two-party system and express hopefulness about its future. About four in 10 considered themselves partisan in the past, but currently, about a third do not lean toward either party.
Compared to other independents, Deliberators are slightly older, more likely to be married and more likely to live in a household where someone has served in the armed forces. They are also more likely to be religious than other independents.
Why are Deliberators political independents? More on their reasons and issue positions after the jump.
Deliberators aversion to party labels does not stem from dislike or distrust of either party - on the contrary, most Deliberators have favorable views of each party - but instead from an open-minded approach to politics.
Nearly eight in 10 Deliberators say they call themselves independent because they vote for candidates, not parties, while seven in 10 say it is because they "vote on the issues, not a party line."
Two-thirds identify as independent because on some issues they agree more with Democrats and on others more with Republicans. They are also split on which party is better able to manage the federal government. This openness to candidates and positions from both parties guides Deliberators' political point of view.
Where do Deliberators stand on the issues?
On the issues, Deliberators are more likely to consider themselves conservative than other independents, and their conservatism is consistent across social and fiscal issues. As a result, they are unlikely to call themselves libertarian.
On Iraq: Deliberators are more optimistic than other independents about the situation in Iraq. They are split on whether or not the war was worth it and on whether it is possible to stabilize the situation there, but like other independents, most say winning in Iraq is not necessary to win the war on terror. Deliberators are fairly secure in our progress in the war in terror: 63 percent say the nation is safer now than it was before September 11.
On the economy: More than half of Deliberators say the economy is in excellent or good condition, aside from Disguised Republicans, this is a high among independents. Deliberators' own economic picutre is reasonably rosy as well, with only one in five saying they are falling behind financially.
On social issues: Deliberators live up to their social conservative self-billing. One-quarter say religion should have greater influence in politics and public life. Fewer than one in five support gay marriage and 41 percent say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. On health care, most believe the focus should be on lowering cost rather than expanding access.
What do Deliberators want in 2008?
Looking towards 2008, Deliberators are equally satisfied with the Democratic and Republican fields, and more than other independents, they seek a candidate who works well with both Democrats and Republicans (39 percent call this an absolutely essential attribute). On the Democratic side, they are less open to Hillary Clinton, while on the Republican side, they are less likely to consider Mitt Romney or Fred Thompson than Rudy Giuliani or John McCain.
If independents are the key to success in 2008, Deliberators willingness to consider candidates of all stripes might put the keys to the White House in their hands.