A Statistical Snapshot of Florida Republicans
Dr. Susan A. MacManus
David J. Bonanza
Andrew F. Quecan
Successful statewide campaigns generally reflect intimate knowledge of three major electoral building blocks: registration, turnout, and historical voting patterns. With the January 31 GOP Presidential Preference Primary right around the corner, it is time to take a closer look at Florida Republicans. It’s a sure bet that candidate appearances and TV ad placement in the days ahead will track closely with these statistics. (Graphics appear at the end of the column.)
Among Florida’s 11.2 million registered voters (November 2011), 41% are Democrats, 36% Republicans, 3% minor parties, and 20% independents (no party affiliation). Since the 2008 general election, the proportion of Republicans has remained the same (36%), while the Democratic share has dropped 1% and that of independents has risen by 1 percent.
- The biggest gains in Republican registration have come in the Tampa Bay (+2.7%), Palm Beach (+2.4%), and Naples (+1.6%) media markets. The sharpest losses have occurred in the Tallahassee (-4.3%), Gainesville (-2.5%), and Jacksonville (-2.2%) markets.
- Nearly half of the state’s 4 million registered Republicans live in the Tampa Bay (25%) and Orlando (20%) media markets. The political importance of the I-4 Corridor is crystal clear. (Figure 1)
- Over half of all the state’s Republicans are concentrated in 10 counties—Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Orange, Duval, Lee, Brevard, and Polk. (Figure 2)
- The heaviest concentrations of Republican voters (as a percent of each media market) are in the Panhandle media markets—Pensacola, Jacksonville, Panama City—and in southwest area—the Naples market. (Figure 3) The Panhandle Republicans are more socially conservative than Republican voters in central and southwest Florida.
- Republicans make up a majority of the registrants in seven counties—Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Clay, Walton, Nassau, St. Johns, and Collier. (Figure 4)
- Eleven percent of all Florida Republicans are Hispanic. (Figure 5)
- Over two thirds of all Hispanic Republicans (statewide) are concentrated in two counties—Miami-Dade and Broward. (Figure 6)
- The heaviest concentrations of Hispanic Republicans (as a percent of each county’s registrants) are in Miami-Dade (72%), followed by Osceola (21%), Hendry (18%), Broward (16%), and Hardee (12%). (Figure 7)
- Florida’s Hispanic population is quite diverse. (Figure 8) Country-of-origin-based voting patterns (identity politics) have been on the upswing in recent years.
Turnout in the 2008 Presidential Preference Primary
- The turnout rate of Florida Republicans in the 2008 Presidential Preference Primary was 51%. It is likely to be even higher in 2012.
- The counties with the highest turnout rates (descending order) were Lee, Sumter, Brevard, Sarasota, Indian River, Lake, Leon, Nassau, Citrus, and Martin. (Figure 9) Many of these counties have large senior populations.
Voting Patterns: Presidential Preference Primary 2008
- McCain won the primary with 36% of the vote; Romney came in second with 31% of the vote. Ron Paul got 3.2%. (Figure 10)
- Over half (53%) of all of Romney’s 604,932 votes came from 11 counties (in descending order): Duval, Pinellas, Lee, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Orange, Brevard, Broward, Miami-Dade, Collier, and Sarasota. Of those, Romney got a larger share of the vote than McCain in only three counties—Duval, Lee, and Collier. The widest gap between the two candidates was in Miami-Dade, where three times as many Republicans chose McCain over Romney.
Republican Voter Preferences: 2008 Presidential and 2010 Gubernatorial Races
- Republicans made up 34% of the electorate in 2008 and 36% in 2010.
- Floridians are often divided in contested statewide party primary elections. However, in general elections, party-line voting is equally strong among Florida Republicans and Florida Democrats. (Figure 11)
The Swing State
Florida Republicans are anxiously awaiting the January 31 primary. A lot is at stake. Party leaders “bet the bank” by leap-frogging over other states to ensure that the party’s nominee can win Florida and recapture the White House. It is already clear that the results will raise anew the pragmatism of starting the whole nomination process in small, rural, non-diverse states.