What Does It Mean To Be An Independent Voter In Texas?

Independent voters outnumber those who call themselves Democrats or Republicans. But what, exactly, is an independent voter? And what sort of influence, if any, do independents really have in Texas?


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A recent Gallup survey found 40 percent of voters nationwide claim to be independent. That’s several points higher than those who identify as staunch Democrats or Republicans. Linda Wilson is among those independents.

“I’ve always considered voting a straight-party ticket to be pretty lazy.”

The 52-year-old Houston paralegal describes her independence in terms that may sound familiar.

“I tend to be somewhat fiscally conservative, and somewhat socially liberal.”

She says there are good candidates and bad candidates in both major parties. But she admits to leaning more Democratic lately over issues like healthcare, education, and economic assistance.

“A lot of the conservative plans, if they’ve even offered a plan, have been so far to the right and appear to be so painful to the middle class and the lower class that I can’t even go there.”

And Wilson says she’s pro-choice when it comes to abortion.  

Abortion is also a significant reason why Austin voter Helen Jensen calls herself an independent.

“I’m pro-life, so the Democrats, even if I like them, kinda put me in a box.”

Jensen says Democrats appeal to her concerns over labor and the environment.  But the one issue of abortion makes her lean more toward the GOP. However, that doesn’t mean she supports Governor Romney.

“Romney bothers me a lot.  I don’t think he’s got a heart for working people.  And he’s more prone to send jobs overseas to make another buck for himself.  And that dismissive ’47 percent’ really turned me off.”

Jensen says she’s voting for Ron Paul as a write-in candidate.

Voters like her may wear the label independent. But one Houston political expert has another name for it — disaffected partisan.

“You disagree with your party on this issue, which is of the most primary concern to you.  And that is why you are, right now, a disaffected Democrat.”

Jon Taylor chairs the Political Science department at University of St. Thomas. He says Texas isn’t a swing state, so being an independent voter doesn’t amount to much. 

“We don’t see wild fluctuations of voter support for either the Republicans or Democrats.  You’re seeing consistent support.  If you look at statewide totals for any given statewide race, it’s roughly about a 55-45 Republican split, somewhere in there.  That suggests what independent voters are there tend to break Republican, at least a majority of them do.”

Taylor says independent voters won’t begin to gain traction in Texas until a truly independent candidate, who is entirely self-financed, manages to do well in a statewide election — either for governor or senate.  But he doesn’t think that’ll happen anytime this decade.

This story was informed by sources in KUHF’s Public Insight Network ®. To become a news source for KUHF, go to www.kuhf.org/pin.

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David Pitman

David Pitman


David was HPM’s local Morning Edition host from 2009 to 2020 -- when he was moved to the position of Technical Director of Houston Matters with Craig Cohen, and Town Square with Ernie Manouse. David has extensive public and commercial broadcast journalism and production experience dating back to 1993 –...

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