New Voter Registration Numbers: Independents Surge in Battleground States
Published January 10, 2012
Since releasing our original analysis of voter registration in battleground states in November 2011, “Independents Day 2012,” new data shows that Democrats continue to shed voters while Independent registration surges. In the eight battleground states with partisan voter registration,1 Democrats are down another 8,491 voters while Independents increased by 59,239. Republicans fared better than Democrats, increasing by 44,227.2
Partisan Voter Registration Changes in 8 Battleground States3
The most recent findings conform to the longer term trend we initially identified: Independents have gained ground relative to both parties since 2008. Using 2008 as a baseline, both Democratic and Republican voter registration has fallen, though Democrats lost more than twice as many voters as Republicans did. Even the slight recent uptick in Republican registration does not significantly alter that overall picture
Key Battleground States
State-level data reveals stark contrasts in voter registration during the final months of 2011. Democrats netted voters in half the states—Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and North Carolina. Republicans and Independents increased in 7 states—all but New Hampshire for Republicans and all but Nevada for Independents. But even where Republicans gained, they could not keep up with Independents. And independent registration outperformed Democratic registration in all but Nevada since our November 2011 report.
In Iowa, where significant attention had been focused anticipating the caucuses, more than twice as many Independents registered to vote in the last 2 months of 2011 than Republicans—4,722 Independents versus 2,081 Republicans. By comparison, in the last 2 months of 2007, right before the competitive Democratic caucuses, 5100 Democratic voters registered.4 Participation in the 2012 Iowa G.O.P. caucuses was up by nearly 3,000 since 2008, yet 11,000 fewer Republicans participated.5 Independents went from 13% of caucus attendees in 2008 to 23% in 2012.6
Despite the more recent increases in Democratic and Republican voter registration, the overall trend in these battleground states is one of fewer Democrats and more Independents. Since 2008, Democrats lost voters everywhere except Colorado, and even in that state the increase in Democratic registration was far outstripped by Independent registration. Republicans lost ground in every state except Colorado and Iowa. And with the exception of Iowa, Independents gained ground relative to both Republicans and Democrats in every state.
Early Primary States
If voter registration is any indication of the electorate’s mood, then it’s a mixed bag. As noted above, Iowa Republicans seemed less enthusiastic about the 2012 caucuses, with the surge in attendees coming instead from Independents. New Hampshire released voter registration data in August of 2011 and then again 4 months later in December. In the last 4 months of 2011, Democratic registration fell by 1,658, Republican registration fell by 406, and Independents increased by 3,468. While voters clearly want to participate in the coming election, they are not eager to align themselves with either party.
The biggest gains for Republicans in the waning months of 2011 came in Florida. While Democratic registration fell by 8,044 voters, Republican registration increased by 18,303. Independents also made substantial gains in the sunshine state, but trailed Republicans, netting 11,063. In Colorado, voter registration increased across the board, consistent with patterns there since 2008. But the story once again was with Independents, whose numbers are up 12,788 in the final 2 months of 2011.
In the final months of 2011, Independent voter registration increased by 10,000 or more in half of the battleground states (Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and North Carolina). By contrast, Democrats had no such sizeable gains, losing voters everywhere but Nevada. Republicans in Florida added 18,303 voters, but that was their only sizeable gain.
Since 2008 the trend continues to be a shift away from the parties. Democrats lost 834,197 voters, or 5.55%, and Republicans lost 334,608, or 2.85%. But Independents have increased by 320,657 or 3.4%. In these battleground states, Independents are going to be the deciders in 2012, and the candidate that woos them will win
Voter registration data is available from states’ Election/Secretary of State websites. The webpages where voter registration data is housed for the years used in this report are listed in the table below and in our earlier report, “Independents Day 2012.” Each website was accessed on January 9, 2012. Data is current through the end of 2011 except for:
- Florida: November 2011 (recently released, our last report used September 2011 data from Florida)
- Nevada: November 2011 (recently released, our last report used October 2011 data from Nevada)
- New Hampshire: December 14, 2011 (recently released, our last report used August 2011 data from New Hampshire)
Voter Registration Data
- 2008: http://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/VoterRegNumbers/2008/December/PartyAffiliation.pdf
- 2012: http://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/VoterRegNumbers/2011/December/VotersByPartyStatus.pdf
- 2008: http://election.dos.state.fl.us/nvra/history.asp
- 2012: http://election.dos.state.fl.us/nvra/history.asp
- 2008: http://www.sos.state.ia.us/pdfs/VRStatsArchive/2008/CoDec08.pdf
- 2012: http://sos.iowa.gov/elections/pdf/VRStatsArchive/2012/CoJan12.pdf
- 2008: http://www.nvsos.gov/SOSElectionPages/voter-reg/2008/1208maint.aspx
- 2012: http://www.nvsos.gov/index.aspx?page=1036
- 2008: http://www.sos.nh.gov/Voter%20Registration%20Statistics/Voters%20on%20the%20Checklist%20by%20Town%20-%20City%20Ward%202008-08-18.pdf
- 2012: http://www.sos.nh.gov/VotersOnChecklist121411l.pdf
- 2008: http://www.sos.state.nm.us/pdf/COUNTY1031.pdf
- 2012: http://www.sos.state.nm.us/pdf/COUNTY013111.pdf
- 2008: http://www.app.sboe.state.nc.us/NCSBE/VR/VR%20Stats/vr_stats_main.asp
- 2012: http://www.app.sboe.state.nc.us/webapps/voter_stats/results.aspx?date=12-31-2011
The 8 battleground states with partisan voter registration data are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
Sources for voter registration data can be found in the appendix.
Third Way’s last report, “Independents Day 2012,” was released in November 2011. It is available at: http://www.thirdway.org/publications/470. Data available at that time was current through November 2011 (including October 2011 data) for all 8 battleground states except Florida (September 2011), New Hampshire (August 2011), and New Mexico (January 2011).
“Monthly Voter Registration Totals,” Iowa Secretary of State, Released November 1, 2007. Accessed January 9, 2012. Available at: http://sos.iowa.gov/elections/pdf/VRStatsArchive/2007/CoNov07.pdf; “Monthly Voter Registration Totals,” Iowa Secretary of State, Released January 3, 2008. Accessed January 9, 2012. Available at: http://sos.iowa.gov/elections/pdf/VRStatsArchive/2008/CoJan08.pdf.
The decrease in Republican participation at the G.O.P. Iowa Caucuses was calculated based on reported turnout and self-reported party identification from entrance polls.
“2008 Entrance Polls: Iowa Republicans,” CNN, Accessed January 9, 2012. Available at: http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/primaries/results/epolls/#IAREP; “2012 Entrance Polls: Iowa Republicans,” CNN, Accessed January 9, 2012. Available at: http://www.cnn.com/election/2012/primaries/epolls/ia.
New Mexico’s Elections Division provided Third Way with voter registration data by party and jurisdiction through December 28, 2011. The last update on their website had data through January 31, 2011, which was used in our first report, “Independents Day 2012.”
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