"It represents one of the fairly rare periods in which independents outnumber either Democrats or Republicans, reflecting the disaffection with both parties that accompanies economic discontent," said Gary Langer, ABC News' director of polling, who calls the disaffection voters have for government the "Frustration Index." Right now it is exceptionally high at 67.
Thirty-nine percent of Americans identify themselves as independent, 24 percent as Republicans, 32 percent as Democrats.
But when voters are asked which party they lean to, the numbers change dramatically – 51 percent are Democrats or lean toward Democrats, and 43 percent are Republican or lean Republican. That leaves only about 5 percent of the population that is truly independent.
That small group is so disengaged they just don't care about politics, according to Stone.
"Some people say they're independent because they just don't give a damn. Its like asking a non-football fan who they want to win the game on Sunday," said Stone. That person might not even know who is playing."
For an independent candidate to be successful, said Stone, "he or she would have to create enough of a constituency between the two parties."
Every race has its own local issues, said Stone, but by and large there is not enough of a truly independent constituency to support that third party.
When the hyper-partisan election season kicks in, people become equally concerned with keeping a certain candidate out of office as they are with electing the candidate for their favored party. Independents are often viewed as long shots and so are particularly susceptible to voters not wanting to "waste" their ballot on a losing candidate, according to Stone.
Crist and Chaffee hope that frustration with Washington and with the parties will help them convince voters that a vote for an independent is not wasted.