Nonpartisanship, also known as nonpartisanism, is a lack of affiliation with, and a lack of bias towards, a political party.[1]

While an Oxford English Dictionary definition of partisan includes adherents of a party, cause, person, etc.,[2] in most cases, nonpartisan refers specifically to political party connections rather than being the strict antonym of "partisan".[3][4][5]



In Canada, the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories and the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut are the only bodies at the provincial/territorial level that are currently nonpartisan; they operate on a consensus government system. The autonomous Nunatsiavut Assembly operates similarly on a sub-provincial level.



In India, the Jaago Re! One Billion Votes campaign was a non-partisan campaign initiated by Tata Tea, and Janaagraha to encourage citizens to vote in the 2009 Indian general election.[citation needed] The campaign was a non-partisan campaign initiated by Anal Saha.

United States


Historian Sean Wilentz argues that from the days of George Washington's farewell address, to Senator Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic national convention in 2004, politicians have called upon Americans to move beyond parties. Wilentz calls this the post-partisan style, and argues that "the antiparty current is by definition antidemocratic, as political parties have been the only reliable electoral vehicles for advancing the ideas and interests of ordinary voters".[6] However, nonpartisan elections are quite common at the local level, primarily in an effort to keep national issues from being mixed up with local issues.[7]

Today, nonpartisan elections are generally held for municipal and county offices, especially school board, and are also common in the election of judges. The unicameral Legislature of Nebraska is the only state legislature that is entirely officially nonpartisan; additionally, the bicameral Fono of American Samoa is the only territorial legislature that is officially nonpartisan.

Although elections may be officially nonpartisan, in some elections (usually involving larger cities or counties, as well as the Nebraska unicameral) the party affiliations of candidates are generally known, most commonly by the groups endorsing a particular candidate (e.g., a candidate endorsed by a labor union would be generally affiliated with the Democratic Party, while a candidate endorsed by a business coalition would be generally affiliated with the Republican Party).[8]

Churches and other 501(c)(3) organizations


Churches and charities in the United States are mainly formed under US Internal Revenue Service tax code 501(c)(3) non-profit organization regulations. To maintain that tax-exempt status, and the ability for donors to take a tax deduction, they are required to remain nonpartisan.[9]

This has caused some to question the ability of organizations that have the appearance of partisanship.

The Brookings Institution is a Washington, D.C. think tank and 501(c)(3) non-profit, nonpartisan organization. Since its founding in 1916, it has had both identifiable Republicans and Democrats among its leadership. Owing to leadership changes such as this, some argue that it is a good example of a nonpartisan organization. The New York Times has at times listed the organization as being liberal, liberal-centrist, centrist, and conservative.[10][11][12][13][14] In 2008, The New York Times published an article where it referred to the "conservative Brookings Institution".[10]

Nonpartisan League


In the Progressive Era, the Nonpartisan League was an influential socialist political movement, especially in the Upper Midwest, particularly during the 1910s and 1920s. It also contributed much to the ideology of the former Progressive Party of Canada. It went into decline and merged with the Democratic Party of North Dakota to form the North Dakota Democratic–NPL Party in 1956.



In the history of Milwaukee, the "Nonpartisans" were an unofficial but widely recognized coalition of Republicans and Democrats who cooperated in an effort to keep Milwaukee's Sewer Socialists out of as many offices as possible, including in elections which were officially non-partisan, but in which Socialists and "Nonpartisans" were clearly identified in the press.[15] (Such candidates were sometimes called "fusion" candidates.[16]) This lasted from the 1910s[17] well into the 1940s. (The similar effort in 1888 to prevent Herman Kroeger's election as a Union Labor candidate had been conducted under the banner of a temporary "Citizen's Party" label.[18]) During the period of Socialist-Progressive cooperation (1935–1941), the two sides were called "Progressives" and "Nonpartisans".[19]

See also





  1. ^ The Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines nonpartisan as: Not partisan; free from party affiliation, bias, or designation. "Webster: Nonpartisan". Archived from the original on 24 April 2009. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd. ed, partisan
  3. ^ "Cambridge Dictionary - nonpartisan". Archived from the original on 3 May 2022. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  4. ^ "Macmillan Dictionary - nonpartisan". Archived from the original on 11 September 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  5. ^ "American Heritage Dictionary - nonpartisan
    Collins English Dictionary - nonpartisan
    Websters College Dictionary - nonpartisan"
    . Archived from the original on 8 May 2022. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  6. ^ p. 28
  7. ^ Sean Wilentz (2016). The Politicians and the Egalitarians: The Hidden History of American Politics. W. W. Norton. p. 45. ISBN 9780393285017. Archived from the original on 7 February 2023. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  8. ^ Steffen Schmidt (2007). American Government and Politics Today - Texas Edition, 2007-2008. Cengage Learning. p. 850. ISBN 978-0495392026. Archived from the original on 7 February 2023. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  9. ^ Eyes wide shut: The ambiguous "political activity" prohibition and its effects on 501(c)(3) organizations, Houston Business and Tax Journal Archived 2 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine, by Amelia Elacqua, 2008, pages 118, 119 and 141, referenced 16 February 2012
  10. ^ a b Glaberson, William (16 November 2008). "Closing Guantánamo may not be easy". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 1 July 2017. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  11. ^ Next Generation of Conservatives (By the Dormful) Archived 15 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine by Jason DeParle, New York Times, 14 June 2005
  12. ^ Silicon Valley's New Think Tank Stakes Out 'Radical Center' Archived 7 February 2023 at the Wayback Machine by Neil A. Lewis, New York Times, 15 May 1999
  13. ^ ECONOMIC VIEW; Friedman And Keynes, Trading Pedestals Archived 7 February 2023 at the Wayback Machine by Tom Redburn, New York Times, 24 September 2000
  14. ^ Marshall A. Robinson, 83, Former Foundation Chief, Dies Archived 18 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine by Wolfgang Saxon, New York Times, 13 January 2006
  15. ^ "School Board Returns Even: Both Nonpartisans and Socialists Pick Five Candidates Each" Milwaukee Journal 18 March 1931; p. 1, col. 7
  16. ^ "Fusion In Many Districts; Old Parties Unite On Legislative Candidates" Milwaukee Journal 1 November 1918; p. 9, col. 2
  17. ^ Avella, Steven M. Milwaukee Catholicism: Essays on Church and Community Milwaukee: Milwaukee Knights of Columbus, 1991; pp. 43-44
  18. ^ Wells, Robert W. This Is Milwaukee New York: Doubleday, 1970; p. 169
  19. ^ Cibulka, James G. and Olson, Frederick I. "The Organization of the Milwaukee Public School System" in Seeds of Crisis: Public Schooling in Milwaukee since 1920 Rury, John L. and Cassell, Frank A., eds. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993; p. 104