pp. 191-192

Independent Politics: How American Disdain for Parties Leads to Political Inaction, Samara Klar and Yanna Krupnikov

Reviewed by Chris Baylor





Samara Klar and Yanna Krupnikov offer a fresh new contribution to the American politics literature on independent voters. Their new book, Independent Politics, presents carefully considered evidence on how nominally independent voters participate—or refuse to participate—in politics. Klar and Krupnikov’s core insight is that Americans shy away from partisanship because it is perceived as socially undesirable, posing serious costs to a vibrant democracy. From the watercooler to the voting booth, “people refuse to engage in consequential political actions simply because these actions could make them appear partisan” (p. 3).

Using experiments and survey data, the authors show that even partisans
prefer independents to fellow partisans. Americans rate independent voters as better neighbors and coworkers, as well as more physically attractive. As politics has become more polarized and parties have been embarrassed by public scandals, more people have hidden their partisan identities. The more experimental subjects are exposed to the discord of polarized politics, the more social stigma they attach to partisanship. “High self-monitors,” who are more vigilant of their self-image, are the most likely to call themselves independent and avoid communication that might convey the impression of partisanship. They do

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