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Independent voters helped sweep President Obama and other Democrats into office in the last two election cycles. But with fewer than six weeks to go before this year's midterms, Independents are swinging decisively to the Republican side. That's according to a report out this past week from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
Reporter Joel Rose spoke with Independent voters who may decide several close races in the suburbs or Philadelphia.
JOEL ROSE: According to the Pew report, almost half of Independent voters say they're planning to cast ballots for Republicans this year. Count Janis Nadler of Haverford, Pennsylvania as one of them.
Ms. JANIS NADLER: I think that there's a backlash and I'm going to probably be part of the backlash of people who won't vote for the Democrats.
ROSE: I spoke to Nadler at Suburban Square, an upscale shopping mall in the mainline suburbs of Philadelphia. Nadler says she doesn't like the Democrats' health care overhaul or the way they've tried to revive the struggling economy.
Ms. NADLER: This shopping center is not very full and usually there's a lot of people around here. I'm a realtor and I think that it's really affecting my business and the ability of people to buy and sell houses.
ROSE: The widespread defection of Independent voters appears to spell big trouble for Democrats. According to Pew, voters who don't register as a member of any party now make up the largest bloc of the electorate, at 38 percent. While it's tough to generalize about such a broad group of voters, they do seem to have some things in common.
Almost two-thirds of Independent voters polled by Pew say that both major parties care more about special interests than average people. Jennifer Bullock is a psychotherapist in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.
Ms. JENNIFER BULLOCK (Psychotherapist): The same old same old. I mean, look at the panel of people that are overseeing the economic recovery and the stimulus. It's the same people that got us into this.
ROSE: Bullock says none of the major party candidates talk about the issues that matter most to her. She wants to see political reform, starting with opening up the state's primary elections to Independent voters.
Ms. BULLOCK: They don't talk about it at all. It's like, let's just put on expensive TV ads attacking one another's resumes. That turns off me and other Independents, like, in a hot second. So, what they need to be doing is really talk to Independents.
ROSE: Still, Bullock says, she supports President Obama. So do Mark Balsam and Yvonne Vazquez of rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania. They both voted for Mr. Obama two years ago, but neither seems very excited about the candidates in this election.
Mr. MARK BALSAM: I will vote for somebody, probably. I mean, I don't feel highly motivated, I guess.
Ms. YVONNE VAZQUEZ: I might not vote at all, period.
ROSE: In December 2009, Vazquez lost her job as a social services administrator and her health insurance. She's glad Mr. Obama tried to overhaul the health care system, but she wishes the health care law did more sooner.
Ms. VAZQUEZ: It's so complicated. It's so convoluted. It's so bureaucratic that they let people feel internally left alone.
ROSE: Rather than solving the nation's problems, Mark Balsam thinks the two major parties seem to be more concerned with getting reelected.
ROSE: The country is paralyzed by partisanship. That's got to change. If that doesn't change, then - doesn't matter who's really elected.
ROSE: But as Balsam admits, that partisan gridlock is likely to continue if Independent voters push Republicans to big gains in Congress this fall.
For NPR News, I'm Joel Rose in Philadelphia.
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