Posted by Adriana Espinoza on April 16, 2015 at 11:08 AM
What the Pew Research Center missed on political affiliation
Last week, the Pew Research Center published its latest report on political affiliation titled, “A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation: Sharp Differences by Race, Gender, Generation, Education.”
It is an impressive feat of data accumulation, but a complete distortion of the growing disaffection with partisan politics that is sweeping the country.
The report analyzes data from 25,000 interviews to break down political affiliation in terms of race, gender, education, age, and religion. Independents rank highest among voters. But Pew insists that independents are actually Democrat Leaners or Republican Leaners.
Because they cannot make sense of this rise in independent identification, they place independents into “partisan-lite” categories in order to formulate their analysis. I don’t blame them for this. As human beings we are vulnerable to understanding new phenomena using outdated categories and obsolete tools.
Pew’s most problematic analytic tool is the assertion that “you are who you vote for.” They can ignore the assertion of 39% of the country - “I am an independent” - simply by adding, “yes, but you tend to vote for one party over the other.”
It’s a clever trick, even an understandable one given how our political culture elevates winning above all. And it won’t be countered by even more clever arguments. Independents need to – and do – give expression to their independence in ways that are not defined by who we opt to vote for on Election Day.
That is why the fight for open primaries is so important. It is a way for independents to say “we are independent because we don’t want the political parties controlling our democracy.” The more we get organized to take on the fight for open primaries and structural political reform, the more that Pew and others will have to recognize that being an independent is not best understood using partisan categories.
Read the full report here.