Report: 23.5M Independent Voters Are Disenfranchised in 2024 Primaries

'Excluded Independents' Want Their Voices Heard and Support Election Reform; Major Opportunity for States and Political Parties

More than 23.5 million registered independent voters are disenfranchised by closed presidential primaries in 22 states this year, according to a new report released today by the Unite America Institute. This includes three million independent voters in three key swing states that will likely decide the 2024 presidential election: Arizona, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.

Since 2010, the share of voters not registered with a major political party has increased by nearly 20%. In response to the rising disenfranchisement of independent voters from taxpayer-funded elections, Open Primaries, in partnership with Unite America, is launching a new campaign called LetUsVote to mobilize independents in support of primary reform. There are active voter-led efforts for open or nonpartisan primaries in several states.

The report, informed by a first-of-its-kind poll conducted by Change Research, sheds light on “Excluded Independents” and their untapped power in elections. The data underscore their political diversity and unique demographic makeup while also highlighting striking similarities:

  • 82% of “Excluded Independents” want a say in the 2024 presidential primary — and 74% call their exclusion a “violation of voting rights.”
  • 87% support opening primaries to independent voters, and 81% support nonpartisan primaries — where all candidates, regardless of party, appear on one ballot.
  • 70% want leaders to compromise to get things done rather than stick to party principles.
  • “Excluded Independents” want a more substantive conversation on the issues; 71% view Republicans as too ideologically extreme and 67% say the same about Democrats.

Nearly half of Excluded Independents (48%) are “pure independents” while 27% lean toward the Democratic Party and 25% lean toward the Republican Party. They are disproportionately young and more likely to be a veteran than the general population.

“Both political parties are telling voters who fought for our country and voters who are the future of our country that their voices do not matter,” said Nick Troiano, Executive Director of Unite America and author of the forthcoming book The Primary Solution (Simon & Schuster, Feb. 27). “Every eligible voter should have the right to participate in every taxpayer-funded election, regardless of political affiliation.”

Along with uncompetitive general elections, closed primaries are the root cause of the “Primary Problem,” where a tiny segment of the most extreme voters decide elections for the rest of the American public. In the 2022 midterms, a mere eight percent of voters elected 83% of Congress in party primaries. 

Despite a dim view of American politics and democracy overall, including deep disapproval of President Joe Biden (70% unfavorable) and former President Donald Trump (60% unfavorable), Excluded Independents want to participate fully in elections and support a wide array of election reforms. More than 80% said they want the freedom to vote in Democratic or Republican primaries for president in 2024 and 87% support opening primaries to independent voters. A similar share (81%) support nonpartisan primaries, where all candidates compete on the same general election ballot.

Read the full report here, and learn more about the LetUsVote campaign here. 

“Independent voters don’t get much respect,” said John Opdycke, president of Open Primaries. “We have the numbers, but not the narrative — partisan politics dominates. LetUsVote hopes to change that.”

"At LetUsVote, we're building a community to share the stories of independents from across the country. We're offering them a voice and a home to connect, bond, and work together,” said LetUsVote Campaign Director Will Conway. “Yes, it's about the right to vote. But it's also about the shared connection and community for folks across the country who feel alone and isolated while the screaming match of American politics buzzes overhead."

Change Research surveyed 2,224 registered independent voters across 20 closed primary states from Jan. 10-20, 2024, with margin of error of +/- 2.4%. Crosstabs available upon request.

About Unite America

Unite America is a philanthropic venture fund that invests in nonpartisan election reform to foster a more representative and functional government.

About Open Primaries

Open Primaries is a national advocacy organization working to enact and protect open and nonpartisan primaries nationwide.

Source: Unite America