Are Independents Just Partisans In Disguise?
Independent voters have grown in recent years into a mega voting bloc. By some estimates
they outnumber registered Republicans, and even registered Democrats.
Every election cycle, independents generate enormous amounts of interest as candidates, pollsters and the media probe their feelings. These voters are widely considered to hold the key to most elections.
Independents generally report that neither party fully represents their views. Some report being to the left of the Democratic Party or to the right of the GOP, but most report being in the middle and describe themselves as moderates. As a group, independents tend to prize their ability to think for themselves, rather than march lockstep with a party.
Now, politicians, reporters
have known for a while that only a few independents are actually open to persuasion. The challenge lies in how to identify them.
That's where a new psychological test could be useful.
is a psychologist at the University of Virginia. Along with graduate student Carlee Beth Hawkins
, Nosek studies why people don't always do what they say they want to do — why there is a gap in many aspects of human behavior between what people intend to do and what they actually do.
Nosek and Hawkins believed this disconnect explains why many independents aren't independent when it comes to voting.
The psychologists used a test that purports to measure people's inner attitudes, including ones they don't know they have.
"The test is called the Implicit Association Test," Nosek said. "And it's been used for a variety of different topics — trying to measure people's racial attitudes, their anxieties about spiders, their self-esteem. In our case, we tried to measure how strongly people associate themselves with Democrats or Republicans.
The idea behind the test is simple. If you are a Republican deep down, you'll quickly categorize things that are Republican with things about yourself, because you identify with the Republican Party. You'll be slower to group things connected to the Democratic Party with things about yourself. (You can try the test for yourself here