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Political Independence in America, Part II: Towards a Theory


This second article asks what it means to be independent in the contemporary United States. Four different meanings are hypothesized: (1) negative feelings about major political parties and partisanship; (2) positive identification with ideals of independence, especially individualistic autonomy; (3) neutrality or indifference because of no detectable party differences of significance; (4) a self-perceived pattern of variability in partisan behaviour. These four attitudinal dimensions are supported empirically via principal components analysis using both national and Wisconsin data. The four dimensions of independence attitudes show varied patterns of association with general indices of Independence self-classification, relevant political attitudes and behaviours, and various antecedents such as age and education.

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Norman H. Nie , Sidney Verba and John R. Petrocik , The Changing American Voter (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979).

V. O. Key Jr, The Responsible Electorate: Rationality in Presidential Voting 1936–1960 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966)

Bruce E. Keith , David B. Magleby , Candice J. Nelson , Elizabeth Orr , Mark C. Westlye and Raymond E. Wolfinger , The Partisan Affinities of Independent “Leaners”, British Journal of Political Science, 16 (1986), 155–84

Richard Katz , ‘The Dimensionality of Party Identification: Cross-National Perspectives’, Comparative Politics, 11 (19781979), 147–63.

Jack Dennis , ‘Political Independence in America, Part I: On Being An Independent Partisan Supporter’, British Journal of Political Science, 18 (1988), 77109.

Jack Dennis , ‘Support for the Party System by the Mass Public’, American Political Science Review, 60 (1966), 600–15

David C. Valentine and John R. Van Wingen , ‘Partisanship, Independence, and the Partisan Identification Question’, American Politics Quarterly, 8 (1980), 165–86, at p. 167.

Arthur H. Miller and Martin P. Wallenberg , ‘Measuring Party Identification: Independent or No Partisan Preference’, American Journal of Political Science, 27 (1983), 106–21.

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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