'Remarkable Shift' Away From GOP Registration

Tuesday, 05 Aug 2008 12:43 PM

By Phil Brennan

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In what appears to be a major shift in the political landscape, Democrats are registering significantly higher numbers of voters than their Republican rivals and, in many states, the increase in voters turning their backs on both parties and registering as independents has skyrocketed.

The shift, according to The New York Times, may suggest that “the beginning of a move away from Republicans [could] affect local, state and national politics over several election cycles.”

The Times reports that since 2005, states like Nevada and Iowa have seen a dramatic reversal over 2004 figures. Moreover, not a single state has switched to the Republicans since then, according to data from 26 of the 29 states in which voters register by party.

According to the Times:

  • In six states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, the number of those registering as Democrats jumped by more than three percentage points, while the number of Republican registrants fell.

  • Republican registration numbers rose and Democratic registration numbers fell in only three states — Kentucky, Louisiana and Oklahoma, but The Times notes the GOP increase was less than a percentage point in Kentucky and Oklahoma. Louisiana was the only state to register a gain of more than one percentage point for Republicans as Democratic numbers declined.

  • Significantly, the real increase has been among voters refusing to choose sides. The number of voters choosing to register as independents has increased at a faster rate than Republicans or Democrats in 12 states, with the increase so large in states like Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina that independents “essentially constitute a third party.” These swing voters could just as easily vote Republican as they could Democrat.

  • Among the 26 states that keeps data on registration numbers the percentage of those registering as Democrats has risen in 15 states since 2004, while the percentage for Republicans has risen in six. The number of registered Democrats fell in only 11 states, compared with 20 states where Republican registration numbers fell.

  • In the 26 states and the District of Columbia where registration data were available, the total number of registered Democrats increased by 214,656, while the number of Republicans fell by 1,407,971.

    What does all of this mean? Experts aren’t sure, but according to The Times, political scientists and party officials now wonder whether the shift of the last few years will be sustained.

    “This is very suggestive that there is a fundamental change going on in the electorate,” Michael P. McDonald, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an associate professor of political science at George Mason University.

    McDonald added that voting and registration patterns tended to even out or revert to the opposing party between elections, The Times reports.

    Dick Armey, former House majority leader and designer of the Republican Revolution of 1994, told the Times: “Obviously, these are not good numbers for the [Republican] party to be looking at. Democrats have always had extremely broad multifaceted registration programs. “I think the key in this one is, where do all these new independent voters break?” he added.

    “Major political realignment is not just controlling the branches of government,” McDonald told The Times. “It is when you decisively do it. We haven’t seen that in modern generations.”

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