Factbox: Independent Voters in California

The old demarcation of either being a dyed-in-the-wool Republican or true-blue Democrat is going by the wayside in the Golden State. In fact, both parties are hemorrhaging registered voters who are jumping ship and joining the legions of political independents.

* Republicans are hardest hit by the shift. The decrease of registered voters affected the Democratic Party to the tune of going from 49.5 percent to 44.5 percent. The Public Policy Institute of California showed that Republicans suffered a loss that decreased their numbers from 39.9 percent to 30.8 percent.

* Less people register to vote. It would be simplistic to assert that the loss of registered voters for both parties is totally the fault of the independent minority. Instead, with 3.42 million there were fewer independents registered to vote in 2010 than there were in 2009, when the figures jumped up to 3.47 million. Still, registration of Republicans is down and registration of both Democrats and independents are up.

* Independents are not synonymous with Tea Party sympathizers. It is a common misconception that California’s disenfranchised Republicans or Democrats become Tea Party supporters. Polling data suggests that a mere 29 percent of independents are favorably impressed by the political movement. It is noteworthy that ever fewer independents — 21 percent — have a favorable view of the Republican Party.

* More independents are infrequent voters. Statistical data shows that Democrats have 44 percent of likely voters and 46 percent of infrequent voters among their registered membership. The difference between likely and infrequent voters among Republicans was 12 percentage points. Independent voters, however, stood the data on its head; more of them are infrequent (29 percent) than likely (18 percent) voters.

* Independent voter gambles of the past fell flat. Recognizing the growing pool of would-be voters, the New York Times chronicled the Democrats’ move back in 2004 to open their primaries to independents as well as registered Democrats. Back then, the gamble did not pay off, since only 207,000 independents (out of 2.5 million in 2004) cast a ballot in favor of a Democrat.

* Proposition 14 might be a mixed bag. NPR goes on record calling California’s new open primary system to be only modestly effective. Even though the increase in independent voters hails a general disgust with the partisan status quo, there is a strong indication that it will hurt third-party candidates, not help end gridlock. Of course, the true test of this new open primary system will not come until the next election cycle, when candidates are certain to woo the new voting block.

Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.