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Millennials move away from political party affiliation

Independents now make up 39 percent of all voters, an all-time high.

The Pew Research Center released a study Tuesday that found younger generations tend to call themselves independent instead of Democratic or Republican.

The percentage of Americans who call themselves independents has reached a high of 39 percent. In contrast, only 32 percent of Americans identify as Democrats and 23 percent of Americans identify as Republicans.

Gary Pearce, a Democratic political consultant, said he thinks people are becoming independents because of an overall distaste with the political system.

“What it probably reflects is disgust with politics more than anything else,” he said. “And I think that disgust is universal.”

Many millennials who are independents — 86 percent — lean toward a party, but do not want to claim party affiliation. Of all independents, 48 percent usually vote Democratic, while 39 percent tend to vote Republican.

Tony Liu, president of UNC Young Democrats, found the issue troubling but understandable.

“The lack of willingness to identify as a Democrat as a political identity stems from a lot of the youth’s disillusion with our national politics,” he said.

Liu said he thinks Democratic candidates need to show college-age voters how their platform relates to them.

“We’re talking about equal opportunity for all American citizens. We’re talking about fundamental things like justice and stability,” Liu said. “These are our values, and you identify with them. That’s why we are the right party for you.”

But Frank Pray, president of UNC College Republicans, said he doesn’t think younger generations are necessarily more liberal.

“This is a fairly complex set of data, and to conclude that liberal ideas in general are more prevalent among younger generations would be an incorrect assumption,” he said.

Pray said the rising number of independent voters doesn’t help either party.

“It’s more of a statement that there’s a lot of things in this country that we need to work on, rather than one party is doing better than another,” he said.

Several UNC students said they feel that party affiliation is too limiting.

Senior James Holden said he holds liberal beliefs but identifies as an independent.

“A large part of it is that I don’t want to be lumped in a group; I want to be able to state my own opinions, and I want somebody to actually have to ask me what I think about abortion before they assume, Democrats think this about abortion, this is what James thinks,” he said.

Isys Elena Hennigar, a freshman, said she thinks young people are afraid of categorizing themselves so strictly.

“It’s just, I guess, more people choosing not to vote a straight ballot, and doing more research, possibly, rather than voting all Democrat or all Republican,” she said.

Freshman Kenny Selmon said he thinks the lack of party identification stems from the polarization of the parties.

“There’s kind of a negative connotation to Democrats,” he said.

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“I think it makes (political parties) take a step back and think, why are we so separate when we could be compromising in between?”