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Independent vs. Nonpartisan: Is There a Difference?

2 min read
Waving a Flag
Good Party Politics Team · Nov 1, 2023

Sometimes, the language used for political diversity is hard to grasp. Some people are unclear about the difference between independent vs. non-partisan. Do these phrases have the same meaning or do they refer to two separate ideas? Let's go on an adventure.

Understanding Independent Political Involvement

An independent voter does not belong to any major political party. To put it another way, voters who are independent are not Democrats or Republicans. It doesn't mean they have no political engagement or are apolitical. It means they abstain from voting along major party lines. Instead, they vote according to the values that guide them.

Political independence can considerably influence election outcomes, particularly in close contests. Over time, the influence of people in the United States who call themselves independents has grown. As of September, Gallup reported that 46% of Americans identify as political independents.

One important clarification about political affiliation is that not all independents share the same views. In fact, of the 46% who identified as political independents in Gallup’s September poll, 49% said they lean more toward the Republican Party, and 43% said they lean more toward the Democratic Party. Independents can fall anywhere on the political spectrum, far-right to centrist to far-left.

Comparing Independent vs. Non-Partisan Positions

What is the difference between independent and non-partisan? Here are some brief definitions:

What Does Independent Mean?

The term “independent” can refer to an individual or an organization. Independent voters may be registered with a political party, but do not always vote along party lines. Many independent voters tend to lean towards either the Republican or Democratic Party even though they are willing to vote for a different party if the candidate's qualities, stances, and issues align better with their own. Since independent voters can change their support between parties and politicians, they are frequently called "swing voters" because of their capacity to affect election outcomes.

Organizations, both governmental and private, can also be known as independent. For example, many advocates of electoral reform support the establishment of independent redistricting commissions — commissions of impartial members that can draw district lines with less bias than partisan officials.


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What Does Non-Partisan Mean?

Non-partisan people are unaffiliated voters and not members of any political party. Voters who identify as non-partisan may not have a preference for any political representation or may consciously decide not to support any major party because they favor objectivity or dislike tethering to the partisanship of party politics.

Organizations can also be non-partisan. Good Party, for example, is a non-partisan organization because we are not aligned with any one political party. A variety of non-partisan advocacy organizations and institutions, such as non-partisan think tanks, commissions, and news media, are also interested in obtaining information and analysis that is free from prejudice and party-neutral. 

Here are some notable examples of non-partisan political organizations:

  • The League of Women Voters: The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization founded over a century ago to speak for American women who desire free and fair elections.

  • Project Vote Smart: Project Vote Smart is a non-partisan organization that provides information to the general public on political candidates and elected officials. They present objective information on the viewpoints, voting history, and campaign contributions of politicians.

  • Common Cause: Reforms regarding government ethics and campaign financing, electoral rights, electoral knowledge, and campaign finance are the primary focus areas for the non-partisan organization Common Cause. They are in favor of fair and open governmental processes.

  • The Cato Institute: The Cato Institute portrays itself as a non-partisan organization. It researches and analyzes various public policy issues, including civil liberties, economic freedom, voting rights, and limited government, while broadly identifying with libertarian or conservative political ideology. The topic of limited government is among the issues researched and analyzed.

The term “non-partisan” can also refer to a type of election. For example, many cities have non-partisan municipal elections, where candidates for city council or other local positions run without party identifiers.

Voting as an Independent or Non-Partisan Voter

Before going into the steps necessary to register to vote as an independent or non-partisan voter, it is of the utmost importance to be aware that the procedures differ between states. For instance, Florida is a closed primary election state. So, only voters who are registered members of political parties may vote. In states including Alabama, Michigan, and Texas, which are open primary states, voters of any political affiliation can participate in the primary process.

Registering as an Independent or Non-Partisan Voter

Here are the steps to register as an independent or non-partisan voter:

  1. Verify the Deadline for Voter Registration: Be aware of the voter registration deadline in your area, which typically falls several weeks before an election. Make sure to register well in advance to participate in the upcoming election.

  2. Register to Vote: Generally, there are four ways to register to vote: online, via mail, in person at the local election office, or in venues designated explicitly for that purpose. If the state mandates it, a person must register with a party before voting. In other states, one can choose "independent" or "unaffiliated" as their party affiliation.

  3. Invest in Voter Education and Vote: Before the election, it is important to educate oneself on the issues at hand and research the various candidates. Then, make a plan to turn out to vote on election day!

Join the Movement of Independent Voters

More and more Americans are identifying as independent voters, and the push for non-partisan politics continues to grow. You can become part of the movement by connecting with Good Party’s network of political independents across the country.

Empower your voice in the democratic process. Whether you're an independent thinker or a non-partisan advocate, your participation matters. Register to vote, explore unbiased resources, and stay informed with Good Party. Your civic engagement can shape the future.

Photo Credit: Paul Weaver on Unsplash


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Independent Movement
Politics 101
Waving a Flag
By Good Party Politics Team
The politics team is focused on transforming the political landscape by promoting transparency, accountability, and positive change. They aim to engage citizens in the political process, encourage informed decision-making, and support candidates who prioritize the common good. Their mission revolves around creating a more fair and just political system, fostering collaboration, and breaking down traditional barriers of partisanship.