As previously mentioned at Smart Politics (October 2, 2006), Minnesota has led the Upper Midwest in successful third party candidacies for more than a decade. Third parties spring up for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a decline in identification with the two major parties.
During the Jesse Ventura years, there was a noticeable rise in the number of Minnesotans who identified themselves as "Independents"—reaching a height of 36 percent in 2001 (11 points more than Republicans and 5 points more than Democrats), according to a study of more than three-dozen Minnesota Polls since 2000.
However, the number of self-identified independents has dropped in four of the five years since, with 2006 levels demonstrating a 27 percent decline from 2001: in 2006 only 26 percent of Minnesotans describe themselves as independents.
Republicans and Democrats have equally benefited from this trend—with a five-point rise in self-identified republicans and democrats from 2001 to 2006. This news cannot be heartening to the Independence Party and its 2006 candidates, whose support relies heavily on political independents.