Fiercely independent or simply tired of the drama?
North Carolina political scientists, activists and strategists said in interviews there are political and societal reasons for the shift. Having no affiliation also can be attractive because these voters can choose to participate in either the Democratic or Republican primary — so candidates from the parties must keep learning how to win their support.
The bitter political atmosphere within the two-party system is a likely cause for the shift, said Michael Bitzer, a Catawba College politics professor studying registration trends. Forty percent of the registered voters known as millennials — those born since 1981 — are unaffiliated and the largest bloc among their age group, according to Bitzer’s research. “Being children of political polarization, maybe this is a clear sign that they are not willing to associate with either party,” Bitzer said, noting these voters aren’t necessarily moderates: “Being unaffiliated does not mean you’re not partisan.”
But it does mean expecting candidates to figure out what you want, in the absence of any defining trait, is somewhere between unwise and disingenuous. I will accept the Democratic Party hasn't always communicated a clear and concise message about what we stand for, but I also believe many new voters are afraid to align themselves with anything, for fear of ending up on the "losing" side. What we need to do (as always) is better articulate the dangers of GOP policies while also formulating and highlighting genuine alternatives to those policies. Because without the beef, it's just an insult sandwich that nobody wants to continue eating.