DENVER – There are still more Republicans than Democrats in Colorado, but a growing number of state voters are choosing not to affiliate with either major political party, according to August voter registration statistics.
Colorado has added 411,181 voters to its active voter rolls since the 2012 election, according to data released by the Secretary of State’s office.
The numbers paint a picture of a center-right electorate, with Republicans maintaining their advantage over Democrats, and unaffiliated voters now representing a plurality of active registration.
Since the November election, total active voter registration has grown by 15.5 percent, increasing from 2.6 million to more than 3 million.
Of those 3 million, 993,650 are registered as Republicans, 964,303 as Democrats, and 1,056,300 as unaffiliated.
Most notably, unaffiliated voters have increased their numbers by 27 percent, or 222,638 since December 1, 2012, compared with 10 and 11 percent for Republicans and Democrats, respectively.
The new numbers may represent a move back to the center in the wake of President Obama’s massive popularity among young voters in recent years, and calling into question predictions of a demographic shift often espoused by more liberal-leaning analysts like the Brookings Institution’s William Frey.
“I think a lot of people thought it was all about Obama in 2008, but that’s not really true. I think he was able to take advantage of a trend that was already there and even intensify it,” Frey said last year.
But the August registration numbers paint a different picture and could spell trouble for Democrats in 2014, a trend that may also be reflected in the sagging popularity of high-profile Democrats like President Obama and Governor John Hickenlooper.
According to Real Clear Politics’ tracking, the President received a 54 percent 12-month high in December 2012. Last month, that number hit 45 percent, showing a strong downward trend over 4 data points and six months.
Some insiders quietly suggest that Governor Hickenlooper’s rising disapproval numbers (43 percent according to a June Quinnipiac poll) may force Democrat candidates in other races to distance themselves from President Obama, Hickenlooper — and the initiatives the two have become synonymous with, such as a proposed $1 billion tax hike and a package of controversial gun control measures.
Democratic Party insiders in Washington have also expressed concerns about the potential down-ticket impacts of the president’s approval ratings.
One of the races where such a national proxy race between Republicans and President Obama and Governor Hickenlooper may play out is in Colorado’s highly-competitive 6th Congressional District, currently represented by Republican Congressman Mike Coffman.
The Aurora-based swing district, which is expected to be among the most expensive election fights in the country, saw an increase of more 60,000 new voters. And while Republicans maintain an advantage over Democrats in the district, unaffiliated voters now account for a plurality of the district’s active registration numbers.
Unaffiliated voters are the largest group with 143,354, while Republicans lead Democrats with 140,873 to 136,330 registrations.
The increase in new voters registering as unaffiliated is one many observers expect to continue.
“Expect the unaffiliated bloc to grow as more young voters sign up,” Ciruli added.