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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Book analyzes why Americans identify as independents

Yanna Krupnikov, an assistant political science professor at Stony Brook University, published a book on why more Americans are identifying as independents. PHOTO CREDIT: STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY

Yanna Krupnikov, an assistant professor in the political science department at Stony Brook University, published a book digging into why more Americans are identifying as independents.

She, along with Samara Klar, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, published the results in “Independent Politics: How American Disdain for Parties Leads to Political Inaction.”

The book argues that many who identify as independent clearly prefer one party over the other and only vote for one party, but think being an independent is more impressive to others. Some self-identified independents do so to avoid political arguments with those around them.

“Our goal was to present our research findings and answer the question ‘why do people say they are independent and does this matter?’” Krupnikov said in an email. “Along the way we found some things that were surprising, and so our goal is to present that information.”

In trying to remain independent or undercover, these people tend to be less politically active out of fear that such action will reveal their political leanings. Their political voices become silent. This, in turn, makes it seem like there is a deep political rift in the United States, even if that is not the case.

These independents dislike showing bias because they associate anger, stubbornness and negativity with the parties, according to Krupnikov and Klar’s research. In one study, Krupnikov and Klar found that when they asked people to make the best possible impression on another person, the people would identify as independents. But when the people were asked to make the worst possible impression, they would identify as strong partisans.

This growth of independents affects today’s politics.

“There is something about contemporary American politics that make people embarrassed to be associated with a party even as they support the party when it comes to the issues,” Krupnikov said in an email. “This motivates people to use the label independent. Support for Trump and Sanders may come from the same motivation: people don’t want to support the party establishment, but they don’t necessarily want to venture outside their own party lines.”

Klar and Krupnikov met at a political science conference, where they discussed research and realized their shared curiosity on the increase of self-identified independents. They began working on “Independent Politics” in 2012. Originally, they intended to write a series of academic journal articles, but after designing and running layers and layers of experiments, they felt that the longer format of a book would better present their evidence.

“The book is definitely a discussion of research related to independents, but it is written in such a way as to be interesting even to people who aren’t political science faculty or graduate students,” Krupnikov said.

Krupnikov’s research and teaching focus on political psychology, political communication, political persuasion, political behavior and empirical methodology, according to her website. She has written for the The Washington Post, the American Journal of Political Science, Political Communication and Political Behavior. Krupnikov earned her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

“Independent Politics: How American Disdain for Parties Leads to Political Inaction” was published by Cambridge University Press on Jan. 22..  

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