Matt Florell: More Florida voters leaning independent, many shunning Democrats

Voter Stress
Democrats' share of the electorate has fallen 2.7% since 2013.

Major parties have been losing ground to independents in voter registrations over the past seven years, with Democrats hemorrhaging at a much faster rate.

A new analysis from St. Pete Polls found that Democrats’ share of Florida’s electorate had slipped from about 40% in January 2013 to 37.3% in April 2020, a drop of 2.7%.

By comparison, Republicans have ceded just 0.4%, falling from 35.2% to 34.4% over the seven-year stretch.

The shift doesn’t stem from Democrats being unable to pull in new voters — they led in new registrations every year except for 2017. Instead, the party has seen more voters dump the party label and lost a sizable chunk to voter purges.

The St. Pete Polls analysis found 303,491 Democrats re-registered as third or no-party voters and 318,135 switched their affiliation to Republican. While about 30% of the 5.15 million new voters since the beginning of 2013 registered as Democrats, the party also accounted for more than 40% of the 3.1 million voters removed from the rolls.

In total, Democrats saw a net gain of 428,530 over the past seven years.

Voter data shows Republicans registered between a quarter and 30% of new voters each year, with 2019 and the first quarter of 2020 leaning toward the top end of that range. The gain was offset by 185,000 voters flipping blue and about 228,000 re-registering as independents or third-party voters. About 35%, or 1.1 million, GOP voters were removed from the rolls.

The result for Republicans was a gain of 662,750 voters, half again better than Democrats managed over the same period.

The NPA designation and to a lesser extent third parties fared best, with a net gain of more than 950,000 voters. They held a slight plurality among new registrants as well, claiming 1.77 million new voters compared to 1.71 million for Republicans and 1.67 million for Democrats.

Beyond party designations, St. Pete Polls’ analysis quantified the electorate’s shifting demographics as well as mail ballot data.

On the whole, White voters’ share has fallen 4.2 percentage points since New Year’s 2013 and now sits at 62.2%. Hispanic voters, meanwhile, now account for 16.87% of Florida voters, up from 13.89%. Black voters’ share has remained relatively flat. They currently make up 13.53% of all voters, down a few hundredths of a percent from seven years ago.

Agewise, the 70 and older voter share went from about 20 % to 23.3%; the 50- to 69-year-old bracket saw a slight drop, from 37.6% to 37.2%; the 30- to 49-year-old crowd fell by 1.5 %, landing at 27.6%; while the under 30 voter share slipped from 13.3% to 11.6%.

One positive sign for Democrats: they are gaining ground in mail ballots. In 2012, 42.9% of mail ballot voters were Republicans while 38.6% were Democrats. Today, the gap between parties has been more than halved. In 2018, Republicans accounted for 42.2% of mail ballot voters and Democrats account for 39.4%, a difference of 1.8%.

The gains were only slightly tempered by ballot rejections — of the 62,908 mail ballots rejected last general election, 39.2% were from Democrats while 37.6% were from Republicans.

Last updated on June 29, 2020

Matt Florell


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