Who are Apartisans?

I count myself as an apartisan, and we are a diverse group.  We may care about particular issues and have strong opinions about them – or we may not.  We may like particular candidates or leaders – or we may be turned off by others.  We may believe in bipartisanship and want to see the parties work together more.  We may support nonpartisan groups that disavow connections to any of the parties.  Or we may aspire to transpartisanship and crave innovative solutions that transcend the parties’ conventional positions and address everyone’s core concerns.

Many of us are registered or identify as independents.  Others of us are registered with a party, but only because of local politics, family tradition, or other mundane reasons.  Some of us may even identify slightly with or lean towards one party, but are not committed to it wholeheartedly.  We may consider ourselves liberals, conservatives, or moderates; we may hold more liberal positions on some issues and more conservative positions on others. 

We are both young and old, and we are growing in number across the country.  Pundits often claim that we are just closet partisans, and we may indeed hold strong views on particular issues and have temporary allegiances to a particular party in a particular election. But some registered Republicans and Democrats may also be closet apartisans and harbor strong doubts about the party they have affiliated with. 

It is therefore difficult to know the full extent of apartisanship in our society.  According to Gallup polls conducted in 2019 and 2020, independents on average have made up over 40% of the American electorate – outnumbering Republicans by 12% and Democrats by 10%.  As the political scientist Russell Dalton notes in his book, The Apartisan American, independents include not only those who are disengaged from politics but also the “new independents” – apartisans – who have a strong interest in politics but are “cynical about both political parties and the current system of party competition.” 

But at heart and for a variety of reasons, both types of independents refuse to identify with either party.  Apolitical independents are therefore more similar to apartisans than they are to partisans.  We both tend to avoid the blanket generalizations, ideological simplifications, and black-and-white characterizations of political questions that are peddled by partisans.  We see the complexity of these issues and appreciate that good and reasonable people can disagree on them.  We are united by our refusal to endorse one particular party and our general aversion to partisan politics – the idea that one party is always right and should always be supported, whatever the situation. 

To learn more about the implications of this stance, follow the link below.

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