October 20, 2020
I have seen some TV reporting that Republicans are outperforming Democrats in new registrations. This stimulated my interest to see if this was true in Florida and if so, what impact it might have on the Presidential Election occurring in two weeks.
I have assembled Florida registration data from 1972 through 2020 as of this years’ book closing, and compared the differences between the two parties. Let’s start with Florida’s total registration over that 48 year period, as shown in Chart 1 below.
The chart shows how Florida’s total registration has increased exponentially over the past 48 years reflecting the state population growth. In 1972, total registration was 3,487,458 and in 2020 is 14,441,869, a 314% increase.
But the real question is what has been the Democrats advantage over this same period and is it increasing or decreasing over this same period. Chart 2 graphically shows how the Democrats registration advantage has declined significantly since 1972.
A little history can explain some of this change. Florida was a traditional Southern state for most of its existence. Southern states were solidly Democratic after the Civil War. Beginning in the 1970’s, Florida’s population changed as new residents arrived from the Midwest and Northeast changing both the population and the culture of Florida’s Old South traditions. At the same time, many old South Democrats changed their registration to Republican.
As the chart shows, there was a sharp decline in the Democratic registration advantage in the 1980’s, finally leveling off around 2002. But in 2008, when Barack Obama was the Democratic nominee, there as new surge in new Democratic registrants.
But when his second Presidential term came to an end, the decline in the Democratic advantage in registration started again, reaching its current level of 134,242 more Democrats than Republicans, shrinking some 560,000 since 2008.
The obvious question is whether the Democratic registration advantage affects which party’s candidate wins? The common sense assumption is that an increase in a party’s registration would increase the likelihood of victory. In my experience, I have found that common sense has little to do with politics.
If an increase in the Democratic advantage increases it should also increase the Democratic election wins. Consequently, the decline in that advantage should increase the likelihood of a Republican win. That’s common sense.
But that is not the case. As you can see in Table 1 below, from 1972 through 2016
In this period, Republicans won seven of the 12 Presidential Florida elections, when the average Democratic registration advantage was 868,029 voters. The year when the Democratic advantage was at its highest (1980), the Republicans won the election.
I also performed a correlation analysis using both the number of votes and number of party victories, and none were statistically significant.
I have to say I expected to see some relationship between registration and the election outcome. In writing this post, I called an old friend who has been directly involved in many campaigns and asked what he thought. His immediate response explained it all: “Candidates still matter.”