As the 2016 election cycle progresses, the prevalent narrative is that, as the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump has energized Democrats, as evidenced by a spike in voter registration. Is this narrative supported by the data? To evaluate this assertion, JMC Analytics and Polling examined changes in partisan voter registration since January 1, 2016. The methodology/assumptions used were as follows:
1. Not all states track a registrant’s race and/or party affiliation. Therefore, this analysis was limited to those states that do track party affiliation;
2. The implicit assumption underlying the narrative about a spike in Democratic voter registration is that these additional Democratic voters will further “tip the scales” towards Hillary Clinton in crucial swing states;
3. JMC’s definition of a “crucial swing state” is one where either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney received 55% of the vote (or less) in the 2012 Presidential election;
4. January 2016 was used as the starting point, since it’s reasonable to assume that the average voter only started “tuning in” to the Presidential contest after the holiday season/New Year’s Day;
From reviewing partisan voter registration data, we did not find that there was a substantial “spike” in Democratic voter registration. Of the 10 swing states that have partisan voter registration, there were three states (Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) where Republicans registered more voters than the Democrats did. While more Democrats than Republicans signed up to vote in the remaining seven states, only two states (New Mexico and Oregon) saw a net increase in Democratic voter registration in excess of 1% of the electorate. And given that Barack Obama in 2012 carried Oregon by 13 points and New Mexico by 10 points, these two states weren’t likely to flip to the Republicans anyway.
Furthermore, if the implicit assumption is that a spike in Democratic registration further enhances Clinton’s chances of keeping those swing states in the Democratic column in November, then the net Republican registration gains in Florida and Pennsylvania (North Carolina voted for Romney in 2012) have to be taken into account when handicapping their November electoral preference, since those two states ALONE provided Barack Obama with 79% of his victory margin in the Electoral College.
Similarly, if we expand our analysis to “non swing” states having partisan voter registration, we do not see a significant swing towards the Democrats in these states either. In fact, the biggest shift in this category occurred in Louisiana, where net Democratic voter registration has decreased 1.4% since January 1 due to a 2.1% decrease in the number of white Democrats.
In conclusion, the assertion that Donald Trump’s being the Republican nominee has “spiked” Democratic voter registration is not supported by current voter registration data.