More Americans now call themselves independents than Democrats or Republicans, and New Hampshire, the site of Tuesday's GOP primary, is no different. About 40% of Granite State voters are not registered in either major political party, and our best estimate is that the share of independents nationally has grown to 42% from 35% over the past three years. That 7% of the electorate is big enough to have changed the outcome of any of the last five presidential elections—and this is not necessarily good news for the GOP.
Barack Obama carried independents by an eight-point margin in the 2008 exit poll—and Republicans carried them by a 19-point margin in the 2010 midterms. Thus GOP candidates may be tempted to believe the independents' disaffection with the president that cost Democrats control of the House will lead inexorably to a Republican presidential victory this year.