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Study sheds light on New York’s unaffiliated voters, suggests open primaries

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  • Staff Report 

Common Cause NY, an advocacy group, recently conducted a comprehensive study to better understand the more than 3 million unaffiliated voters in New York State. The study aimed to identify the demographics, geographical distribution, and political inclinations of these voters, who currently make up a significant portion of the state’s electorate.

According to Common Cause NY, the research revealed that unaffiliated voters are predominantly white, college-educated, with about a third residing in New York City, and with substantial numbers in the Lower Hudson Valley, Albany, and Long Island.

The study also delved into the reasons behind voters’ decisions to remain unaffiliated with any political party. Focus group discussions highlighted a strong sense of pride and identification with being independent, detaching from the partisanship often associated with party affiliations.

The findings showed that 36% of unaffiliated voters dislike partisanship or both major parties, while 18% consider themselves centrist, moderate, independent, or non-partisan. Despite their independent status, these voters are actively engaged in the electoral process, with most prioritizing participation in elections at all government levels, particularly presidential elections.

Common Cause NY’s study also put forth proposals to increase unaffiliated voters’ involvement in New York’s electoral process, which currently has closed primaries barring these voters from participating.

The study suggests an open primary system, allowing all voters to participate in any primary race. This idea garnered 65% support from overall voters, indicating a strong preference for more inclusive electoral processes.

Additionally, 71% of voters favored primaries with no party affiliation, and 29% supported temporary party registration for primary participation. As New York state considers primary election reforms, Common Cause NY hopes this study will contribute significantly to the discourse, offering comprehensive data on unaffiliated voters and their preferences regarding electoral participation.