Moderate Independents – The Ultimate Swing Voters

While winning Independent voters has long been characterized as the key to winning close elections, the self-reported “Moderate Independent” is possibly the sweet spot of the Swing Voter group. We thought this crucial voter group warranted a look at how they have voted and how they may have been swayed by some of the most talked about issues in the 2012 campaign.

To get a clear look at voting trends among this group, we started with the national vote for U.S. President dating back to 2004. Moderate Independents have supported the Democratic candidate for president in all three elections; however, in 2012, Barack Obama won this group by a smaller percentage than John Kerry did in 2004 or even Obama himself in 2008.

The graph below shows the national vote for U.S. President among independents who call themselves moderates – a group that made up 15% of all voters in 2012 (up from 13% in 2004 and 2008):

Moderate Independent Vote

While President Obama’s margin among Moderate Independents declined between 2008 and 2012, he did carry the group in both elections. So how did the Democrats capture this group? To help answer that, here is a look at three of President Obama’s signature issues and how Moderate Independents fell on these issues.

On the issue of taxes, President Obama and Governor Romney offered starkly different views on whether rates should be raised. On this issue, Moderate Independents agreed with the President in supporting higher taxes for wealthier Americans.

As the graph below shows, 52% of Moderate Independents supported increasing taxes on Americans who earn over $250,000 a year. Among all voters, that percentage dropped to 47%, so Moderate Independents supported the President’s position on tax rates more than the electorate at large.

Income Taxes

On the issue of same-sex marriage, a clear majority expressed support for President Obama’s backing of same-sex marriage. Among Moderate Independents, 59% supported a position similar to that of the President, agreeing that their state should make same-sex marriages legal. Among the total voting population, 49% supported making same-sex marriages legal, showing a clear difference between the two groups.

Same Sex Marriage

And finally, on the issue of illegal immigration, Moderate Independents again supported the less conservative view. When we asked voters their views on the issue of illegal immigration, 69% of Moderate Independents supported offering illegal immigrants a chance to apply for legal status. 65% of all voters supported this position, showing that Moderate Independents were somewhat more likely to support a path to citizenship.


President Obama won re-election with the help of Moderate Independents, and his actions on several key issues during his first term were strongly supported by this group of voters.

Note: A “Moderate Independent” is defined as someone who answered “Moderate” to the question, “On most political matters, do you consider yourself a Liberal, Moderate, or Conservative” and also answered “Independent” to the question, “No matter how you voted today, do you usually think of yourself as a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or Something else.”

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