‘No Party Preference’ voters decline in California as political polarization increases, data shows

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — With the 2024 presidential election less than a year away, a new report from the California Secretary of State shows the changes happening with the state electorate.

The data shows that for the first time in years, the number of voters registered with “No Party Preference” is shrinking, while the numbers of both registered Republicans and Democrats have both grown since 2019.

“We always have to think about the fact that there are environmental factors like what’s happening in our culture, what’s on the news, what’s on social media. And then there’s mechanical factors,” said Paul Mitchell.

Mitchell is the vice president of Political Data Inc., a bipartisan voter data firm.

Mitchell says one of those mechanical aspects is the fact that California does a better job than most states in getting people registered to vote.

“California definitely, especially in 2018, made it much, much easier to register and much easier to stay registered,” he said.

Beyond that, Michell says increasing polarization in our society as a whole likely also contributes.

He says in recent years both parties have rallied their respective sides around issues like trans rights and abortion to drive voter turnout.

“It wasn’t just a flash in the pan that it happened just in the election immediately after the Dobbs decision, but it has extended to this midterm election and I would hazard a guess it’s going to extend to the 2024 election,” Mitchell said.

California voters aren’t alone either.

Across the country, polls have shown Americans are becoming increasingly partisan.

A trend that Mitchell says likely won’t reverse any time soon.

“Nationally, I think that the culture has gotten more partisan, especially around the presidential races,” Mitchell said.

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CA Following Massachusetts Model When It Comes To Voters & Voting?

New statistics show a big jump in “no party preference” voters in California while registration in both major political parties has declined. While this change in voter registration mirrors some national trends, California may be heading boldly in the direction of another thickly populated blue state – Massachusetts.

In California the recent report from the Secretary of State shows Democrats make up 43.1 percent of the registered voters, Republicans 27.9 percent, while independent registration gained more than two full percentage points to 23.5 percent or a nearly 12 percent overall gain.

VotedMany observers predict it is only a matter of time before voters who do not declare affiliation with any political party will outnumber Republicans.

That’s the way it is in Massachusetts. In fact, unaffiliated voters outnumber both major parties combined in the Bay State. Independents make up 52.5 percent of the Massachusetts voter roll, Democrats 35.7 percent and Republicans 11.1 percent. Like Massachusetts, the majority of independent voters lean toward the Democrats assuring heavy majorities in the state house. The Massachusetts House has 125 Democrats, 35 Republicans; the Senate has 34 Democrats and 6 Republicans. No threat to supermajority there.

But the similarity ends at the executive office door. Over the past 25 years, only one Democrat has been elected governor of Massachusetts. Or to put it another way, over the past quarter of a century Republicans have won five of seven gubernatorial elections in Massachusetts. Democrat Deval Patrick just concluded his second term in office. Charles Baker, the fourth Republican governor to be elected over that time period, replaced him.

Is this a sign of hope for California Republicans that they might again capture the top statewide office? Could it be that voters want a check on a one-sided government?

No one will accuse Jerry Brown of being a Republican. However, a number of political observers have suggested Brown is the best Republicans could hope for to occupy the governor’s chair in this blue state.

The trend toward independent voters capturing a larger segment of the voting rolls will probably intensify when the already authorized Election Day registration kicks in. It is quite likely that a majority of those who register the day of the election will choose the No Party Preference label.

Further increasing the No Party Preference portion of the roll would be the effort to mandatorily register all eligible voters as proposed by Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez.

More than 27 percent of the eligible voters have not registered to vote in California. If a voter who had no interest in registering to vote is required to register the odds are many of those voters will choose to be classified as independents so the percentage of independent voters will grow.

However, it is not certain that the percentage of voters participating at an election will grow. In fact, the opposite is likely to happen. If voters who have no desire to register are added to the rolls automatically will many of them actually vote? The theory that participation will increase dramatically under this effort probably can be filed under the “You Can Lead a Horse to Water but You Can’t Make it Drink” philosophy.

Joel Fox is Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily