The number of independent voters has grown steadily in recent years, particularly in the Southwest. Politicians have had a difficult time appealing to the less predictable group, which includes everyone from ex-libertarians to young people who think of political parties as irrelevant.
Update: A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows independents favor Democrats by 2 to 1.
New York Times:
Nowhere has the shift been more pronounced in recent years than in the Southwest, where Republicans have enjoyed an overwhelming advantage since the days of Barry Goldwater. Here in Arizona, people who reject the old major party labels are by far the fastest-growing category of voter, with the number of independents doubling over the last 10 years, to more than one in four.
Numbers like that are the stuff that ulcers are made of for party regulars and election prognosticators, who are trying to figure out where the new independents are coming from politically or geographically and where they might hang their hats on Election Day. No one is fully confident. Anxiety is high.
“Arizona has always had an independent streak, but these new voters are of all stripes,” said Garrick Taylor, a spokesman for the Arizona Republican Party. “They’re going to be a wild card.”
But if the trend toward independent voters continues—and there is no sign of faltering—experts say it will lead to more competitive races not only on local and statewide levels but also in the presidential election.