WASHINGTON, DC (Circa) - Why do you vote the way you do? There are probably many reasons, but according to a new research report, many voters support a party not because they like it, but because they think the other party's policies are harmful to the country.
More than 70 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of Democrats cite the harmful nature of the opposing party's policies as a major reason in their party support, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.
"What you find is that, as expected, people are drawn to parties because of the policies espouse and that's a major reason," said Carroll Doherty, the director of political research at the Pew Research Center, in an interview. But he noted that concern over the other party's policies was a very close second.
"Majorities in both sides say the opposition party's policies are bad for the country, they are harmful for the country."
For independent voters who lean either Republican or Democrat, a negative view of the opposing party's policies was the primary reason for party support, with 58 percent of Republican leaners and 57 percent of Democratic leaners citing a negative view of the opposing party as the main factor for their election choices.
So why don't independents who lean one way or the other simply identify with that party? Well, according to the research, it's because they are frustrated with party leadership. It was cited as the primary reason for not joining by Republican-leaning independents (44%). For Democratic-leaning independents, frustration with party leadership tied with disagreement over party issues (38%) as the primary reason.
"There's a lot of talk aobut third parties forming. [But] the institutional impediments, the structural barriers to that are very high," noted Doherty. "So there are people who may not be in the middle politically, but they're sort of untethered politically, but their options are somewhat limited."
These independents are a crucial voting block. Despite a recent drop in independent voter identification, President Donald Trump received four percent more of the independent vote compared to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. This disparity was especially important considering Trump and Clinton carried almost the same amount of the vote in their respective parties, 88 percent of Republicans voted for Trump, while 89 percent of Democrats voted for Clinton.
With the 2018 midterm elections right around the corner, Pew's data could give a glimpse into how candidates will appeal to voters. While party policies will be important, don't be surprised if you see concern with the other side play a major role.