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Where were Californiaís independents?

Skaidra Smith-Heisters
February 5, 2008, 10:47am

I'm encouraged by the growing number of independent (a.k.a. non-partisan, decline-to-state) voters in California, even if their political inclinations, when they vote, are a mixed bag (e.g. open primaries, term limits, the recall of Gov. Davis and election of Gov. Schwarzenegger). Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute of California recently gave this description of the state's independent streak:
[T]he California independent is a special breed, with views that span the political spectrum and reflect an overarching desire to reach for pragmatic, nonideological and nonpartisan solutions to problems. This voter group defines itself as politically moderate: Many have left the major parties and have no interest in ever joining a party. They often express a liberal perspective on social issues, seek action on environmental issues, and support a conservative approach on fiscal and law-and-order issues. They are also flexible in their policy and political allegiances, something that is rare in Democratic and Republican circles.
Voters registered without stating a party reached nearly 20% in yesterday's election, but was California's purple-state trend evident in the results? PPIC polling indicated that only "1 in 5 independents said they would pick up Democratic ballots in the February primary, but this could all change if they believe their vote will count." The high turnout suggests that a higher-than-average number of independents may have been lured to the polls. But how many decline-to-state voters in California knew that–with the Republican primary closed to unaffiliated voters–their only choice would be a Democratic ballot? And how many decline-to-state voters weren't offered a Democratic ballot because they didn't know they had to ask for one? Decline-to-state registration is highest in San Francisco (29%) and also especially high in Santa Clara, Mono, Alameda, San Mateo and San Diego counties. Obama won half of those–San Francisco, Mono, and Alameda. For what it's worth, on the propositions, primary results matched the endorsements of the California Chamber of Commerce, but also nearly matched the Los Angeles Times and California Republican Party endorsements. I'll be looking for more clues as the vote tally progresses.

Skaidra Smith-Heisters is Policy Analyst


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