British Journal of Political Science

Research Article

Political Independence in America, Part II: Towards a Theory

Jack Dennis*

This second article asks what it means to be independent in the contemporary United States. Four different meanings are hypothesized: (1) negative feelings about major political parties and partisanship; (2) positive identification with ideals of independence, especially individualistic autonomy; (3) neutrality or indifference because of no detectable party differences of significance; (4) a self-perceived pattern of variability in partisan behaviour. These four attitudinal dimensions are supported empirically via principal components analysis using both national and Wisconsin data. The four dimensions of independence attitudes show varied patterns of association with general indices of Independence self-classification, relevant political attitudes and behaviours, and various antecedents such as age and education.


* Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison. This is a revised version of a paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, September 1983. The author is indebted to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences for support of this research. Thanks are also due to the Research Committee of the Graduate School, University of Wisconsin – Madison for financial aid used to prepare and process the data, to the Wisconsin Survey Research Laboratory which collected the data for the Wisconsin Political Socialization Study in 1980–81, and to ICPSR which furnished the 1980 American National Election Study. I am especially grateful for computational assistance from Yuko Miyo Mulugetta and for word-processing assistance from Pamela Henderson, Renee Gibson and Kathy Kruger.