New quarterly voter registration numbers from the Arizona secretary of state’s office reveal that independents now tie Democrats with 32 percent of voters each, behind Republicans who make up almost 35 percent. Democrats only gained 539 new voters this past quarter, whereas Republicans gained 3,093 and independents gained almost 90 percent of the 28,042 new voters.
The 2020 presidential election in Arizona may be what caused the recent defection from Democrats according to one longtime Arizona political consultant. Paul Bentz, senior vice president of research and strategy for HighGround Consultants, theorized, “While you can vote in other races, you can’t vote for the president without being of the party. We saw a pretty significant shift to Republicans, a significant uptick in Republican registration, for people who either wanted to vote for Trump or vote against Trump.” Arizona is one of 31 states where residents must choose a party in order to vote in the primary.
Bentz also observed that while many expected there would be a shift away from the GOP after January 6, “the trend hasn’t continued at the great speed people thought it would.” Arizona gained far more Democrats than Republicans throughout much of the 2000s and well into the 2010s, but that trend has changed. Previously, for example, during one quarter in 2007, 36 percent of new voters registered as Democrats, while only 11 percent registered as Republicans.
Democrats briefly pulled ahead of independents in January, after trailing them in numbers for the past 10 years. Independents outpaced both parties in growth between most of 2000 to 2016. Libertarians in the state number less than one percent and lost numbers this past quarter. Both Democrats and Republicans lost more voters than they gained between the election and last quarter, which ended in June.
Republicans won the independent vote nationally by seven percentage points in 2016. According to a survey of validated voters by Pew Research, they flipped and went nine percent for Biden over Trump, although 62 percent of Republicans in Arizona believe there was significant voter fraud.
Bentz said 77 percent of Arizona Republicans polled by his organization support the Maricopa County ballot audit.
Most independents are partisans and vote that way, according to the Cook Political Report. A 2015 survey by ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy found that 14.6 percent of Arizona independents identify as conservatives, 12.1 percent as liberals, and 73.3 percent as moderates. A larger percentage of independents said they defected from the Republican Party than from the Democratic Party, 24.5 percent to 21.1 percent.
A significant 42 percent of Americans now identify as independents. Arizona political consultant Jason Rose observed, “There’s a national and state trend toward more independents when it comes to party affiliation.” The numbers have increased substantially since 1992, when independents made up only 11.6 percent of the electorate.
In Iowa, where independents outnumber both Republicans and Democrats, independents may now decide races. However, independents don’t vote as frequently as Republicans and Democrats.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at the Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “People Voting” by Wyofile Wyofile. CC BY 2.0.