(Disclaimer: I don’t know Kyrsten Sinema… I don’t work with or for Kyrsten Sinema… I like to work with data, and I would like the following not to be misinterpreted as anything other than a look at the data behind moving to Independent in a state like Arizona.)
Kyrsten Sinema’s recent move to the ‘Arizona Independent’ party may make some Democrats upset, which is understandable. People can speculate ‘til the cows come home as to why exactly she would make a move like this; great. But looking purely at the data, this move makes perfect sense in a state like Arizona. Not only that, but I suspect it would also make logical/political sense in some other states as well.
First and foremost, Kyrsten Sinema is a democratically elected officer of the people of Arizona. Forget whether you personally like her or dislike her. Forget that her move to Independent may help or hurt your own agenda. Let’s just look a moment at actual data about the state of Arizona, and whether or not it would be smart for an elected official in that state to be ‘Independent’.
According to the most recent Secretary of State (Arizona) voter registration statistics, there are 3.23% more registered ‘other’ voters in Arizona than there are registered Democrats.
I would argue that based off the fact that over a third of Arizonans don’t register Republican or Democratic would be enough ‘data’ to prove that being an ‘Independent’ elected official is a smart and welcome move for the people of Arizona.
“What about drawing the ire of the Democrats and the President?”
In the recent Marist Arizona poll fielded October 31st – November 2nd only 38% of adults approved of the job Joe Biden is doing as president, with 56% of adults disapproving. If you are an elected official, and over half of your constituents ‘disapprove’ of the job the head of your party is doing, you should probably make a move to not vote in lockstep with that person.
Along those lines, Data for Progress (D) conducted a statewide poll in the closing days of the election (Nov 2-6, 2022) and found that over half of likely voters have an unfavorable opinion of both Joe Biden (58% unfavorable) and Donald Trump (53% unfavorable), further indicating why being affiliated with neither party may be a smart move for the Arizona public.
“What about Sinema’s electability in the future?”
According to the AP’s 2022 Arizona State Senate Exit Polls, 40% of the entire electorate self-identified as Independent. That is to say, a plurality of voters in Arizona this election identify with the party that Sinema recently joined.
Furthermore, 9% of self-identified Republicans voted for the Democratic candidate Mark Kelly, and 2% of self-identified Democrats voted for Republican Blake Masters. All in all, that means (based on the voter registration statistics of Arizona) roughly 4% of the entire electorate voted in the Senate election for the opposition candidate – without having a viable third party ‘independent’ option on the ticket.
Marc Victor, the Libertarian candidate in Arizona this year, received 2.09% of the vote but raised (in cash) less than half of 1% (0.16%) of Democratic candidate Mark Kelly.
So not only do a plurality of people in Arizona self-identify politically as Independent according to this year’s exit polls, on most political matters a plurality also consider themselves to be moderate, 6 points more than those who say conservative, and 20% more than those who say liberal.
Interestingly, among the 1,328 exit poll respondents in Arizona this year, when asked which candidate quality mattered most to these voters, a plurality said they were looking for a candidate that “Shares my values.”
“Is America ready for an Independent Senator?”
Well technically there are already two. But also, according to Gallup’s party affiliation question which asks, “In politics, as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent?” the last time ‘Independent’ wasn’t a plurality was December of 2012, and they ask that question nationwide about once a month. So that means since 2012, a plurality of Americans consider themselves Independent.
Outlining a couple data points from the most recent Economist/YouGov nationwide survey of adults (Dec 3-6, 2022) to further show Americans are ready for a third-party candidate (…or rather, are tiring on the two current options):
60% do not want Biden to run for president again in 2024
61% do not want Trump to run for president again in 2024
Only 20% ‘approve’ of the way that the United State Congress is handling its job
50% have an unfavorable opinion of the Democratic party
50% have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican party
51% disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as President
Our own national q4 survey conducted 11/18-22/2022 asked Americans if they think America would be better or worse off if “some congressional districts had elected Independent candidates not aligned with either party”: by a 24-point margin, registered voters believed America would be better off had there been some Independents elected, with only a quarter of registered voters believing we’d be worse off had Independents been elected.
The bottom line is that over the past 30 years, the only ‘party’ that has gained popularity in America is the ‘Independent’ party. And it’s not even close. The website 538 put together a graph last year of Gallup’s party ID data showing how people ‘identify’ politically, and people identifying with either the Republican or Democratic party has declined, quite substantially, while those individuals have decided to identify as Independent. 538 notes that a majority of these Independents still lean toward one of the two parties, but I think the data still speaks for itself.
This trend isn’t just how people identify either. Over the past 30 or so years Gallup also has been asking individuals about their party registration and we see the same trend; the only ‘party’ which has seen increased registration is the ‘Independent’ party, while Democratic registration has remained static and Republican registration has fallen.
Listen, I’m not saying this to upset the 60% or so of people reading this that identify with either the Republican or Democratic party. I fully understand that if there was a massive appetite for Independents, then Independent candidates would get elected.
What I’m trying to show is that there is a lot of data available that shows that people are open to the idea of being represented by an Independent. That people may not be that happy with either party’s nominees for President come 2024. That we don’t as a people, approve of the job Congress is doing. That Americans have been shifting away from the two-party system both in how they identify, and how they register to vote. And that switching party affiliation to Independent as an elected official in a state like Arizona might just be a pretty smart move.