The rise of independents

“Independents are the single largest and fastest growing group of voters in the nation,” says Dr. Omar Ali, historian, political analyst, and dean of Lloyd International Honors College at UNC Greensboro. “Upwards of 50% of voters across the nation self-identify as independent.” 

Last week Ali’s book “The Independent Voter” launched in Washington, D.C., at a signing event that included former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and CNN senior political analyst and anchor John Avlon. 

The Routledge Press paperback is a comprehensive look at voters who reject identifying with either of America’s major political parties. Ali’s co-authors are longtime collaborators Jacqueline Salit – the president of IndependentVoting.org – and Arizona State University professor Dr. Thom Reilly. Yang contributed the book’s forward. 

“The Independent Voter” uses historical and contemporary data to explore why so many people are leaving the two major parties. Shifting trends among Black, Latinx, and Asian communities regarding party loyalty, young voters who want a new political culture, and deep distrust of a partisan system are some of the voting dynamics highlighted in the book.  

“According to a Partnership for Public Service survey from this year, 56% of U.S. adults do not trust the federal government to do what is right,” Ali says.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, he says, independents span the entire political spectrum – they are not just moderates split between Republican and Democratic viewpoints. 

“Independents have a broad range of ideological positions – but what many have in common is that they are alienated by partisan gridlock. They are concerned that Democratic and Republican party interests take precedence over compromises and practical solutions.”

North Carolina is seeing similar trends to the nation, Ali adds, with independents again the largest and fastest growing voting group. “Nearly 35% of NC voters are registered as unaffiliated, which is well over double the number from ten years ago.” 

Ali, who published “In the Balance of Power: Independent Black Politics and Third-Party Movements in the United States” in 2020, sees hope for the country’s future in these numbers.

“Independent voters have always been an engine for change in the United States,” he says. “The voter rebellion currently underway in the United States could revitalize our democracy.”


By Sangeetha Shivaji

Composite image: The Independent Voter book cover and a photo by Martin W. Kane of Dr. Omar Ali recording a podcast with Dr. Lalenja Harrington and Dr. Nadja Cech.