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Candidates Can Still Swing the Independent Voter

Scarborough Study Analyzes Voting Behavior of Self-Identified Independents
Oct 01, 2012
New York, NY
Market Highlights

On October 3, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will engage in the first of their political debates, competing for the less-definitive votes that lie outside of their parties’ bases. Voters from both parties are sure to tune in to watch them go head-to-head on the issues, but it is the Independent Voter for which the candidates will be vying. In anticipation of the political debates, consumer market research firm, Scarborough, reveals the voting behavior of the 11 percent of registered voters who self-identify as Independent*.

By identifying the organizations to which Independent Voters made financial contributions in the past year, candidates can better plan which of their platforms to highlight most in the political debates. Independent Voters were 10 percent more likely than all U.S. registered voters to live in a household that contributed to a healthcare or medical organization in the past 12 months and six percent more likely to live in a household that donated to a military or veterans’ organization. Following is the full breakdown of Independents’ contributions by organization:

Organizations Household Contributed Money to in the Past 12 Months % of Registered Voters Who Self-Identify as Independent
Religious 35%
Military/Veterans 19%
Healthcare/Medical 17%
Social Care/Welfare 15%
Arts/Cultural 10%
Environmental 7%
Political 4%
Other 27%

“Understanding which organizations Independents feel are worthy of their contributions allow candidates to identify the causes and issues that are top-of-mind this election year for voters who are not yet aligned with a single party,” says Brian Condon, EVP of Commercial Development for Scarborough. “Demographics and geographics are always important when crafting outreach, but identifying the voting behavior and key issues that move people to action are also strong ways for politicians to analyze their target audiences.”

Where can the candidates reach Independents with their messages once the political debates are over? On a typical weekday, 40 percent of Independent Voters read the print or online edition of their daily newspaper. Moreover, 29 percent have visited a newspaper or TV website in the past 30 days. Independent Voters are also 13 percent more likely than all registered voters to listen to Classic Rock and All Sports radio formats and 15 percent more likely to listen to Active Rock. On television, Independent Voters are 12 percent more likely than all registered voters to have watched the History Channel in the past seven days.

Independent Voters are also extremely active online. Those who access the Internet are 12 percent more likely than all Internet-using registered voters to spend 20 hours or more online per week and 17 percent more likely to spend five hours or more per day engaging in social networking. Seventeen percent of online Independent Voters say they read or contributed to a blog in the past 30 days.

When geo-targeting their messaging after the political debates, candidates are most likely to find Independent Voters in the northeast. The top local markets for registered voters who self-identify as Independent are: Providence, RI (27% of registered voter residents are Independents); Boston, MA (24%); Hartford, CT (21%); Des Moines, IA (19%) and Albany, NY (16%).
* For purposes of this analysis, Scarborough focuses only on those registered voters who might be called “pure” Independents—in other words, we exclude those Independents who indicate they “lean” toward one party or the other.

Continue the conversation or share your opinions with Scarborough over Twitter by reaching out to @ScarboroughInfo.

This data is from Scarborough USA+, Release 1, 2012. Scarborough measures 210,000 adults aged 18+ annually across a wide variety of media, lifestyle, shopping and demographic categories.

About Scarborough: 

Scarborough (, brings the local market to life like no other company. Our consumer insights reflect the shopping patterns, media usage behaviors across multiple platforms, and the lifestyle trends of American adults. Media professionals, marketers and agencies use Scarborough insights to: create a smarter, more informed marketing mix; conduct market-competitive analyses; plan event sponsorships and partnerships; geo-target prospective consumers; increase product sales, grow customer loyalty and for overall marketing strategy. Scarborough’s core offering of individual local-market studies spanning 120+ markets (including Puerto Rico). 77 local markets are MRC accredited. Other products and services include Analytics (customized research and express analysis) Sports and Hispanic insights and attitudinal data to help our clients address the why behind consumer behavior.  Scarborough surveys more than 210,000 adults annually, and studies more than 2,000 consumer categories. Scarborough has been in business for 40 years and is a joint venture between Arbitron Inc. ( and The Nielsen Company (