While partisan forces align easily with their party candidates, independent voters are a crucial voting bloc in the 2014 elections.

Some say they are the crucial voting bloc.

In the latest Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll, independent voters saw a significant rise in self-identification, but they did not follow past trends as closely as seen in the two previous election cycles.

When asked, “Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as an Independent, a Republican, a Democrat, or other?”, roughly 36% said they considered themselves independents.

Q. Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as an Independent, a Republican, a Democrat, or other?

36% Independent
25% Republican
31% Democratic
8% Other

Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis:

Our poll results suggest a jump in the percentage of Arkansas voters who identify with neither major political party. Here, a full 36% call themselves “independents.” This contrasts with the 31% of the electorate calling themselves “independents” in our post-election poll in 2012.

The most obvious explainer of the shift is an antipathy to current hyper-polarized political dynamics in Washington that has pushed voters away from either political party during this period of a government shutdown.

Because this group is so large, it is therefore important how they shift in their voting allegiances. While the Republican candidates are gaining the plurality of Republican voters in these preliminary statewide polling results (Cotton leads Pryor 48-42% in the race for U.S. Senate and Hutchinson leads Ross in a prospective matchup 48-32%), this is a starkly lower showing among independent voters than we saw in either the 2010 or 2012 election cycle in the state.

For instance, Mitt Romney won the votes of over 7 in 10 (71%) independent voters in his race against President Obama.

It is crucial to continue to watch this group both for its size and for whether its tendency vote as overwhelmingly Republican as was the case in 2010 and 2012 persists into the 2014 cycle. This factor may well decide the outcomes of the two high-profile races for Governor and Senate.

METHODOLOGY
This survey was conducted by Talk Business Research and Hendrix College on Tuesday, October 8, 2013. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-4%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 603 Arkansas frequent voters statewide.

Approximately 25.7% of the voters in our sample were contacted via cell phone. This is in response to the increased reliance by voters on cell phones.

All media outlets are welcome to reprint, reproduce, or rebroadcast information from this poll with proper attribution to Talk Business and Hendrix College.

For interviews, contact Talk Business executive editor Roby Brock by email at roby@talkbusiness.net or Dr. Jay Barth by email at barth@hendrix.edu.

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