Independent voter numbers have surged in battleground states since 2008

Chris Moody
·Political Reporter

JUPITER, Fla.—If current voter registration trends continue, both the Republican and Democratic parties may have a serious numbers problem.

Since President Barack Obama was elected in November 2008, the number of voters registered as independents or with a third party has surged in several key states, while those registered with both major parties have dropped off significantly. Among the six battleground states that provide monthly voter registration data (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania), all but the Buckeye State report more independent voters than four years ago.

In states like Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, both Republicans and Democrats alike have lost registered voters during that period. In Pennsylvania, for instance, the parties have shed a whopping 437,811 registered voters since the last presidential election.

Based on an analysis of registration data by Media Trackers, a state-focused nonprofit research group, there are 278,895 more independent registered voters in Florida than there were four years ago, 246,822 more in North Carolina, 244,814 more in Arizona, 169,944 more in Colorado, 33,470 more in Pennsylvania and 18,169 more in Nevada. While some of these voters are registered with third-party groups like the Libertarian or Green Party, most are registered independents. Still, the hemorrhaging of party affiliates in key states suggests that voters there are unsatisfied with the traditional Democratic and Republican operations.

A closer look at the data in these states also shows that Democrats appear to be losing registered voters the fastest. Since 2008, there has been a 9.5 percent decrease in the number of registered Democrats in Iowa, 6.6 percent in Pennsylvania, 5.8 percent in Arizona, 5.7 percent in Nevada, 3.8 percent in North Carolina and 3.7 percent in Florida. Meanwhile, Republicans have actually seen gains in Colorado, Florida and Iowa but losses in the other states. In Nevada, which saw a nearly 6 percent increase in independent voters, Democrats and Republicans have suffered an equal percentage of losses.

Despite the shift in these states, registered Democrats nationwide still outnumber Republicans, but the number of voters unaffiliated with the major parties continues to grow.

The trend first became apparent in December 2011, when a USA Today analysis showed what appeared to be an exodus from the major party registration rolls in several important states. By that time, more than 2.5 million voters had shed their official affiliations with the parties.