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College Independents Poll: The Emergence of a Non-Partisan Politics?

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Omar H. Ali, Ph.D., Research Coordinator

Over the course of eight weeks (Sept. 6–Nov. 6, 2012) a team of four researchers from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro conducted a face-to-face poll of students at sixteen college campuses across North Carolina.

Approximately one out of four students stopped to take the poll at the various campuses, which included a broad range of public and private institutions; three-quarters of the students who stopped identified themselves as politically independent—that is, neither Democrat nor Republican. During the two months of the survey, the team polled 1,246 self-identified political independents.

The researchers asked the students twenty-one questions, which included why they identified as independent, their level of support for specific structural political reforms, their views of the Democratic and Republican parties, and their knowledge of electoral politics and history.

The poll revealed several key findings: (1) a plurality of college students self-identify as independent regardless of how they are registered to vote, (2) nearly two-thirds expressed being anti-party, with an overwhelming number of college independents saying that they do not want to be politically labeled as partisan, and (3) college independents say they strongly favor structural political reforms that would reduce partisanship in the political process. The overall results suggest the emergence of a non-partisan politics among younger voters.

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Omar H. Ali is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the African American Studies Program at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. A graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science, he received his Ph.D. in History from Columbia University. Professor Ali was a member of CNN’s Political Strike Team during the 2012 U.S. Presidential election and serves on the Board of Directors of His book In the Balance of Power was described by The National Political Science Review as a “landmark work.” In addition to providing political analysis and commentary for CNN, he has also appeared on C-SPAN, NPR, CBS, FOX, and HuffPost Live. E-mail: Learn more at