March 12th, 2010
09:20 AM ET

How many political independents are there?

John Avlon, author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America," railed on CNN against partisans on the far right and far left "that are always trying to divide rather than unite us."

He said on CNN's "American Morning" on Friday that "they really have developed a disproportionate influence over our politics that ends up drowning out most folks in the middle." He continued, "If independents could realize that there are more independents than Democrats or Republicans, I think we could help bring politics back to the center."

Fact Check: Are there more independent voters than Democrats or Republicans? How do they influence elections?

- The CNN Fact Check Desk combed through a CNN poll to find the answer. The January 2010 poll had a 3 percent sampling margin.

- Forty-two percent of people responding in the poll described themselves as independents. Thirty-two percent said they were Democrats and 26 percent said they were Republican. Of those independents, 14 percent leaned toward Democrats, 19 percent leaned toward the GOP, leaving 9 percent with no partisan preference.

- Over the past 10 presidential elections, the candidate who won among independents usually won the office, based on exit polls. The exceptions were 2004, when John Kerry won 49 percent of independents to Bush's 48 percent, and 1976, when Gerald Ford won 54 percent of independents to Jimmy Carter's 43 percent. (Typically in exit polls, fewer people identify as independents. More people identify themselves with the party of the candidate that they voted for.)

Bottom Line:

More voters identify themselves as independents than Democrats or Republicans. However, only 9 percent of respondents to a CNN poll said they were independents with no partisan leanings. In the past 10 presidential elections, the presidential candidates that independents voted for were usually the ones elected.

- CNN's Keating Holland and Allison Archer contributed to this report.

Got something that needs checking? Email us at factcheck@cnn.com

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