On Friday, the office of California Secretary of State Alex Padilla posted updated voter registration statistics in advance of the state’s June 5 primary, and the data shows a continuation of the same bleak trend line for Golden State Republicans that we’ve written about in prior cycles: The GOP is simply hemorrhaging voters, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of registered voters.
Overall, just over 4.8 million Californians are currently registered as Republicans, representing 25.4 percent of the total electorate. That’s a loss of almost half a million voters—and a huge drop from the party’s 36 percent share—since the end of 1997, the first year for which statistics are available. And that drop comes despite the fact that California’s population has jumped from 32.5 million to 39.3 million over the last two decades.
During that same 20-year time period, meanwhile, Democrats gained nearly 1.7 million new registered voters, bringing their tally to 8.5 million. Despite that growth, though, Democratic voter registration as a share of the electorate has mostly flatlined over that time period, settling from 46.8 percent in 1997 to 44.6 percent this year.
The reason? An explosion of voters—an increase of nearly 3 million—who have elected to register as independents (or what the state calls “no party preference”). Independents now make up an even 25.0 percent of all California voters. That’s more than double their 11.9 percent share in 1997, and just a hair behind where the GOP stands.
To make matters even worse for Republicans, these voters who have elected to express no party preference tend to favor Democrats in the polling booth. And here’s the real kicker: It’s very probable that registered Republicans will fall behind both Democrats and “no party preference” voters at some point by Election Day this fall, essentially relegating the California GOP to third-party status. This, in the state that sent both Nixon and Reagan to the White House.