Periodically, we like to analyze voter registration data provided monthly by the Secretary of State as a means of staying abreast of demographic/population trends in Louisiana. The most recent statistical report was published several days ago, and here’s what we saw:
December 2013 statistics
Statewide voter registration (active and inactive) on December 2, 2013 was 2.92 million. This figure was actually a decrease of 52K from December 2012, but such a decrease is not abnormal – periodic purges of inactive voters from the voter rolls are typically done after a major election (which in this case was the 2012 Presidential election).
Of those currently registered to vote in Louisiana, the racial breakdown is 64-31% white/black – a figure that is unchanged from last year. Current registration by party is 47.5% Democrat, 28% Republican, and 25% Independent.
When looking at these statistics, the first thing worth noting is the continued erosion in the number and percentage of registered Democrats (48.1% were Democrats in December 2012), with the “benefit” going almost entirely to independents (who were 24% a year ago).
If you were to drill down further by examining party preference by race, white voters are 40-33% Republican (27% are Independents). It is at this level of detail that the steady erosion of white Democratic voters becomes more apparent, since last year white voters were 40-34% Republican. In fact, the formerly (from a voter registration perspective) dominant white Democrats have in a single year declined from 22 to 21.5% of Louisiana’s voters.
While there has been a continual exodus of white voters from the Democratic party, black voter registration has remained solidly Democratic, although there has been some erosion here as well: the 79.5%-2.5% Democratic over Republican preference among black voters was 80-2.5% Democratic a year ago.
Finally, it’s also worth analyzing the voter registration preferences of Hispanics/Asians, given that the re-election of President Obama was partially due to overwhelming support from those voter blocs. In Louisiana, the statistical reports combine all those who are not black or white into an “other” category, and this demographic is now approaching 5% of statewide voter registration (in 8 parishes – 5 in the New Orleans metropolitan area – the Asian/Hispanic population is between 6 and 10%). From a party registration perspective, this bloc is up for grabs: 48% are Independents, 29.5% are Democrats, and 23% are Republicans. Last year, the Asian/Hispanic voter bloc was 47% Independent, 30% Democratic, and 23% Republican.
While the changes noted above appear minor, we’re only talking about a time span of 12 months in a non-election year. You can see more noticeable trend lines if you expand the beginning of the comparison period to the first presidential inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009. Those trends are as follows:
(White) Democratic decline: While current voter registration is 47.5-28% Democrat/Republican, it was 52.5-25.5% Democrat/Republican five years ago. Driving this change was (in absolute numbers) an 135K decline in the number of white Democrats. In other words, at the start of the Obama administration, 26% (or 761K) of Louisiana’s voters were white Democrats, and that figure is 21.5% (or 626K) today.
This change in party preference also means that white Democrats no longer are the majority in their own party: five years ago, whites had a 50-47% majority of registered Democrats. Today, blacks have a 52-45% majority of registered Democrats.
Demographic shifts: Louisiana’s racial demography is changing as well. While the state has about 17K more registered voters than it did five years ago (a miniscule 0.6% increase), if you look beneath the surface, the statistics also show that there are about 10K less (in absolute numbers) white voters than at the start of the Obama presidency, while there are 17K more black voters and 9K more Asian/Hispanic voters. If these trends were to continue, the potential for a racially polarized electorate would increase, which in the near term benefits black Democrats and white Republicans. Over the long term, the political calculus is less clear, because you also are faced with the possibility of Asians/Hispanics becoming a more statistically significant 10% of the electorate. Thus far (in Louisiana, anyway), they are not strongly aligned to either party: while their current voter registration is 48% Independent, 29.5% Democratic, and 23% Republican, it was 46.5% Independent, 31.5% Democratic, and 22% Republican five years ago. In other words, this group is showing less inclination over time to identify with a political party.
Republican gains: Over the last decade (particularly the last five years or so), the Republican party has become much more competitive, and they now hold every statewide and Congressional office (except for one House and one Senate seat), a majority of the BESE board, a majority of the PSC, and a majority of the Supreme Court. It is certainly worth noticing that all of this has happened with Republicans’ only having 28% of the state’s registered voters (five years ago, it was 25.5%). What is more significant, however, is that in recent years, a plurality of white voters has become Republican. Five years ago, there was a 40-36% Democratic registration plurality. Today, Republicans have a 40-33% plurality among white voters.