Last summer, we had examined Louisiana voter registration (and associated trends) over the previous decade, and in that analysis, we discovered the following:
- Increased GOP voter registration
- A continuous decline in the number of white Democrats
- A black majority among registered Democrats
- A GOP plurality among white voters
Since that August 2012 analysis, the Presidential election was held last fall. Have the trends noted above continued since last summer? Here’s what we found:
Increased GOP voter registration
Republican voter registration continues to increase. Since the last analysis, GOP voter registration has increased by 16,160, which means that percentage of voters who are registered Republican has increased from 27.4 to 27.7%. The number of those not in the Democratic or Republican Party (for simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to them as “Independents”) increased by 10,919, which in percentage terms means that their influence has increased from 24.1 to 24.3%. These gains have come at the expense of Democratic voter registration, which in absolute numbers declined by 261 and in percentage terms declined from 48.5 to 48%.
Decline in white Democrats
We have noted above that since August 2012, the number of registered Democrats has (in absolute terms) actually declined by 261 voters, while at the same time, 26,818 additional voters added to Louisiana’s voter rolls. If you dig deeper, you will realize that the continuous decline in the number of white Democrats has continued. To put this decline in perspective, in January 2001, there were 951,230 white Democrats, and this demographic at the time made up 35% of the Louisiana electorate. A decade later (in January 2011), the number of white Democrats declined 27% (or 255,346), and their proportionate influence plummeted from 35% to 25% of the electorate.
We had noted in our previous analysis that only 23% (or 659,132) of the Louisiana electorate consisted of white Democrats as of August 2012. Seven months later, since the last analysis, there has been a loss of 20,224 (or 3%) in the number of white Democrats. This decline means that white Democrats, who last summer made up 23% of the Louisiana electorate, are now only 22% of Louisiana’s voters. And as the number of white Democrats continues to decline, they are not being reinforced with “replacements”: the average age of a white Democrat is 57 years old (a Republican is, on average, 47 years old, while an Independent is 40 years old).
A black majority Democratic Party
There is another story to tell with regards to the demographic mix of Louisiana’s voters: the number of white Democrats continues to decline as the number of Republicans and blacks increase. This means that black voters are wielding an increasing influence within the Democratic Party specifically and with the statewide electorate in general. Since last August, black voters have accounted for 72% of new voter registrations, and their electoral influence has increased from 30.6% to 31%. Furthermore, 97% of black voters who have registered since the last analysis have registered Democratic.
Given the near unanimous preference that blacks typically have for the Democratic Party (combined with the exodus of white Democrats), the racial breakdown of those who have registered Democratic has changed. In January 2001, the racial breakdown of registered Democrats was 58-40% white. Last summer, blacks had a 50-47% majority of registered Democrats. The March 2013 voter registration figures show that blacks now have a 52-46% majority of those registered as Democrats.
One subject that has not been studied (but should) is the party preference of blacks on the voter rolls in Louisiana. While the Republican Party has made advances in recent years, this is one demographic where Republicans have lost strength: in 2001, black voters were 83-3.5% Democratic/Republican (another 14% were Independent). Today, the party breakdown is 80-2.5% Democratic/Republican (17% Independent). In absolute numbers, this means that the number of black registered voters has increased 14% over the past 12 years, while the number of black Republicans has decreased 17%.
A Republican plurality among white voters
While Republicans in Louisiana have made substantial gains in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, they are also being helped by a larger voter base, and a plurality of white voters are now registered Republican. To illustrate how rapid their rise has been, when President Obama was first inaugurated in 2009, Democrats had a 40-37% registration plurality among white voters. Today, Republicans have a 40-34% voter registration plurality among white registered voters.
Growth in Hispanic/Asian voters
Historically, Louisiana (like the Deep South) was a “binary” state with regards to its racial mix: nearly everyone was either white or black. In recent years, the faster growing Southern states have seen an explosion in their Hispanic/Asian populations. While Louisiana has not seen much of this growth, the number of voters who are not black or white has nevertheless increased noticeably (50%) over the last decade, to the point that 5% of Louisiana voters are either Hispanic or Asian. Furthermore, this growth in Hispanic/Asian voters has not been evenly distributed across the state: only eight parishes have an Asian/Hispanic voter base over 5%, and in Orleans/Jefferson Parish, Asian/Hispanic voter registration is approaching 10%. Since this demographic tends to be concentrated in several areas (Kenner/Gretna in Jefferson Parish, and parts of New Orleans East), it’s conceivable that they could influence some local races (or even elect one of their own to office).
So how are Hispanics/Asians registering to vote from a partisan perspective? Thus far, those demographic groups are showing no strong partisan leanings: 30% are registered Democratic, 23% are registered Republican, and 47% Independent – numbers that have not changed much in the past few years, although there has been a slight uptick in the percent who are registered Republican.
Assuming that current trends continue, the Louisiana electorate will increasingly be divided into two camps: black Democrats and white Republicans, with a growing bloc of Asian/Hispanic voters. As long as the vote is polarized along racial lines (which generally is the case in all but Orleans and East Baton Rouge Parishes), that will produce a Republican dominance, although politics is rarely a static event: new coalitions are always being formed and/or dissolved as time goes on.