Much has been made in recent weeks about the declining strength of the Republican party in most demographic sectors. A new study by the Pew Research Center suggests that the Democratic party isn't picking up most of those defections; self-identified Independents now outnumber both Republicans and Democrats.
The proportion of independents now equals its highest level in 70 years. Owing to defections from the Republican Party, independents are more conservative on several key issues than in the past. While they like and approve of Barack Obama, as a group independents are more skittish than they were two years ago about expanding the social safety net and are reluctant backers of greater government involvement in the private sector. Yet at the same time, they continue to more closely parallel the views of Democrats rather than Republicans on the most divisive core beliefs on social values, religion and national security.There is a long, excellent discussion of this phenomenon at The Moderate Voice. My understanding of what is happening is that the trend results not from changes in the mindset of the American public, but because the two major political parties are moving away from the center.