April 4th, 2012, 2:18 pm
Posted by Martin Wisckol, Politics reporter

Despite the high degree of partisanship in Washington and Sacramento, unaffiliated voters in California continue to increase their market share. Decline-to-state voters now account for 21 percent of the state’s electorate, up from the 19 percent of 2008 and double the 10.5 percent of 1995.

Over the last 17 years, both major parties have seen their share decrease. Democrats are now at 44 percent of the state’s voters, down from 48 percent. And Republicans, saddled by a growing Latino electorate that is largely turned off by the GOP, have lost an even bigger chunk as they’ve gone from 37 percent to 30 percent.

There are several factors explaining the growth of the state’s moderate voters at the same time partisanship among elected officials is at a cyclical high.

See the OC Political Pulse poll on partisanship and cast your vote.

Newt Gingrich‘s confrontational approach while House speaker from 1995 to 1999 set a new tone, which fellow Republicans have continued to embrace, said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Brown Institute of Public Affairs at CSULA. Pressure exerted by the Tea Party and tax-fight leader Grover Norquist have helped fuel the inclination of GOP Congress members to dig in their heels.

On the other side of the coin, some Republicans have become increasingly alarmed by what they see as congressional Democrats’ move toward socialism – health-care reform is Exhibit No. 1. Some Democrats counter that taxes are at a historic low.

But that partisanship – and it’s Sacramento counterpart – does not necessarily reflected an increased partisanship in the electorate, said Sonenshein, “except among the most ideological voters.”

California has grown in independent voters while the nation as a whole has remain relatively flat in that regard, although neither finding should be taken as an indication of a shift in partisan ideology, he said.

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