Louisiana voter registration trends, 2001-(July) 2017

JMC Analytics and Polling periodically analyzes voter registration data that is updated on a monthly basis by the Secretary of State as a means of staying abreast of demographic/population trends in Louisiana. The most recent (i.e., July 1) statistical report was published several days ago, and here’s what the data shows:

Current statewide voter registration (both active and inactive voters) was 2.98 million, a number that has remained virtually unchanged since January 2017 (January was used as a measurement date, because right before that, a (regularly scheduled) post-election voter purge removed 55K inactive voters from the voter rolls).

Of those currently registered to vote in Louisiana, the racial breakdown is 64-31% white/black, and partisan registration is 44% Democrat, 30% Republican, and 26% Independent. Both of these figures have changed little since January.

While the macro numbers indicated minimal change, several long-term trends that have been addressed in previous analyses continued in July, and those trends are particularly apparent when examining changes in voter data over time:

(1) The vanishing white Democrat: when George W Bush was inaugurated in 2001, white Democrats comprised 35% (or 951K voters) of the Louisiana electorate. That figure declined to 26% (or 763K voters) when Barack Obama became President eight years ago. At the advent of the Trump administration, only 19% (or 552K) were white Democrats. Today, 18% (or 543K) are white Democrats. In other words, the count of white Democrats has in absolute terms declined by an average of 1,437 per month since January (the decline was an average of 2,196/month during the Obama years, and 1,962/month in the Bush years).

(2) Steady Republican gains: 22% (or 605K) of the electorate consisted of registered Republicans when George W Bush was inaugurated in 2001. That increased to 25% (or 737K) at the beginning of the Obama era and 30% (or 893K) in January. Since then, 3,800 more voters have registered Republican. In other words, the count of Republicans has increased by an average of 631 per month since Trump’s inauguration (it was a 1,618/month increase in the Obama years, and 1,376/month in the Bush years).

(3) An increasingly diverse electorate: Black voter registration comprised 29% of the electorate at the beginning of the Bush administration and is 31% today, although curiously, 73% of those gains occurred throughout the Bush Presidency alone. More substantial gains have actually occurred from the voter population of Asians/Hispanics (who are classified in the monthly statistics as “Other”): they have seen their numbers increase 66% since 2001 (the black voter population increased 17% during the same time period, while the white voter population has increased 3%), and they now represent 5% of the Louisiana electorate. In 11 parishes, more than 5% of registered voters are Asian/Hispanic (11% in Jefferson; 8% in Orleans, Plaquemines, and Sabine; 7% in St Bernard, Terrebonne, and Vernon; 6% in St Tammany; and 5% in Beauregard, Bossier, and East Baton Rouge).

(4) The rise of the Independent: Those declining to be affiliated with either of the two major parties have increased in number over time (from 18% (or 488K) in 2001 to 26% (or 768K) on July 1), although Republicans and “Independents” have alternated taking the lead in terms of their respective voter registration growth: during the Bush years, Independents out registered Republicans 152 to 132k. Republicans then saw their numbers increase more during the Obama years: they out registered Independents 155 to 123K. Since Trump has taken office, Independents have out registered Republicans 5,900 to 3,800, although their “lead” has come entirely from black Independents, who are also the least likely to vote (their turnout was 45% in 2016 and 20% in 2015).

In conclusion, the Louisiana electorate continues to get more racially diverse, with growth coming from all groups but white Democrats, who have seen their numbers decline from 35 to 18% over the past 16 years.