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Sayfie Review Featured Column

by Dr. Susan MacManus
January 28, 2016

Susan A. MacManus

Distinguished University Professor, USF

David J. Bonanza

Research Associate, Palm Bay, FL

Anthony Cilluffo,

USF Research Assistant


With Iowa and New Hampshire dominating political news and Florida’s presidential preference primary not scheduled until March 15, it is easy to lose sight of the Sunshine State’s relevance as one of the nation’s premier swing states—a place where a battle is necessary to tip the final vote tally in one direction or another—and much more representative of the nation’s population makeup. A grueling slug-fest it will be beginning with registering new voters—and keeping older ones from changing their registration from a major party to a minor one or no party at all (NPA).


Figure 1. Florida Pop. More Representative of U.S. as Whole than Iowa or New Hampshire


Percentage of Population

U.S. 2015


Florida 2015


Iowa 2015


New Hampshire 2015







Non-Hispanic White










African American










Native American





Pacific Islander





Two or more races






        Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2015 Census Estimates. 

Florida’s two major parties willspend a great deal of time (and money) over the next 10 months trying to expand their traditional bases. What better way to start tracking this election year’s grassroots operations than to take a close look at the composition of Florida’s registered voters at the beginning of 2016. 

A glance at the detailed graphics that follow will yield some helpful insights into the registration battle that will surely dominate each party’s Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) activities over the next 10 months. Data are from the public access Florida Voter Registration File provided by the Division of Elections and include active and inactive voters—each of which is eligible to vote.

Here are the key findings, each keyed to the relevant Figure located at the end of the column.


Party Composition (Figures 2-8)

v  Party affiliation: Both Democrats and Republican registrants are shrinking as a share of all registered voters; “other” (NPAs and minority party members) are on the rise (Figure 2).  NPA and Minor Party registrants now represent more than one-in-four of Florida’s registered voters—a pattern observed in the U.S. overall.

The Democratic edge over Republicans has actually shrunk since 2012. January 2016: Dem 38%, Rep 35%, NPAs 24%, and minor parties 3%—Figure 3.  In early 2012, the figures were Dems 40%, Reps 36%, NPAs 20%, and minor parties 4%.

In some counties, independents are already a larger share of registrants than one of the major political parties.  (Figure 3). Counties where NPA and Minor Party voters outnumber Republicans are concentrated in the Southeast part of the state (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Flagler) while the counties where Democrats are outnumbered are concentrated in the Southwest part of the state (Charlotte, Lee, and Collier). A key goal of the major parties in those areas is reverse the pattern of independents overtaking them. For the parties in general, the goal is to keep it from spreading!  (Figure 4)

White registrants are a larger portion of the Republican (84%) and minor parties (82%) than of NPAs (60%) or Democrats (51%). (Figure 5)

Black registrants are a much larger share of Democrats (28%) than Republicans (1%), NPAs (8%), or minor parties (5%). (Figure 5)

Hispanic registrant shares are highest among NPAs (21%), followed by Democrats (15%), Republicans (11%), and minor parties (8%). (Figure 5)

Asians comprise a larger share of NPAs (3%) than any of the other parties (1% each). (Figure 5)

Younger voters (under age 30) are a larger share of NPAs (22%) than Democrats (14%) or Republicans (11%).  (Figure 6)

Registrants age 65+ are a larger component of Republicans(35%) and Democrats (30%), while a majority of NPAs are under 50 (67%) compared to Democrats (43%) and Republicans (36%). The same pattern holds for minor party registrants. In general, the biggest challenge to both parties are voters under 30 who are increasingly registering as NPAs. (Figure 6)

Women are a larger share of Democratic registrants (58%) than Republicans (50%). Women are a minority of NPA (49%) and minority party members (46%). The gender gap among registrants is highest among Democrats (58% women, 40% men) and minor parties (53% men, 46% women); lowest among Republicans and NPAs. (Figure 7)

A majority of the registered voters regardless of party affiliation live in the three largest media markets—Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota (24%), Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, and Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne (19%).  (Figure 8)

v   The largest share of Democrats lives in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market (24%). For Republicans, it is Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota (25%) as it is for both NPAs (25%) and minor party registrants (29%).  Shares are the most even across party affiliations in the Orlando media market. (Figure 8). The I-4 Corridor markets are the most partisan competitive—and represent the swing part of the swing state


Racial-Ethnic Registration Patterns (Figures 9-13)

Two-thirds of all registrants are white, followed by Hispanics (15%), blacks (13%), Asians (2%), and other (4%). (Figure 9). The Hispanic and Asian shares have increased since early 2012—white (68%), Hispanic (13%), black (13%), Asian (1%), and Other (5%). Other includes unknowns, American Indians/Alaskan natives, and multi-racials. In general, one-in-three of Florida’s registered voters is not white. Both blacks and Hispanics are under-registered compared to their share of the adult population, perhaps for different reasons related to the ineligibles among them (age, incarceration, citizenship status).

A plurality of whites in Florida are registered Republicans (45%), a majority of blacks are Democrats (81%). Hispanics are the most diverse—38% Dem, 34% NPA, 27% Republican, and 2% minor. A plurality of Asians register as NPAs (41%), followed by Dem (31%) and Rep (26%). (Figure 10)

A majority of each minority group, with the exception of “Other”, is under age 50—Hispanics (56%), Blacks (58%), Asians (57%). A majority of white registrants (62%) are 50 or older. (Figure 11)

Women are a majority of registrants in every party affiliation group, with the highest percent among blacks (58%), the lowest among whites (52%). (Figure 12)

A majority of Hispanic registrants live in the Miami media market (52%), followed by the Orlando market (19%). (Figure 13)

In the two I-4 Corridor markets (Tampa + Orlando) hold: 48% of white registrants, 47% of Asians, 42% of other minority registrants, 34% of Hispanics, and 33% of blacks.


Age (and Generation) Registration Patterns (Figures 14-21)

56% of Florida’s registrants are 50+ while 44% are under 50.  (Figure 14) This pattern will be the focus of both parties.  Because in early 2012, the age differential was smaller: 48% under 50 and 52% 50 and older. 

Using generational age definitions, the two youngest generations (Millennials and Gen-Xers), make up 48% of the registrants, while those from older generations (Baby Boomers—34%, the Silent—16%, and Greatest—2% Generations) make up 52%.(Figure 15). BOTH PARTIES WILL FOCUS ON REGISTERING YOUNGER MILLENNIALS ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES WHICH WILL ALSO INCREASE RACIAL/ETHNIC DIVERSITY IN THEIR PARTIES.

v  Regardless of what age classification is used, younger voters are considerably more likely to register as NPAs than older voters. (Figures 16 and 17)

v  Likewise, regardless of age, younger registrants are much more racially/ethnically diverse than older voters.  78% of those 65 and older are white compared to 52% of those under 30; 53% of the Millennials. (Figures 18 and 19)

Women make up a majority of the registrants in every age group—but a higher percentage of those 65 and over(54%) than the youngest cohort (50%). (Figure 20) An even sharper difference can be seen by generation. Women from the Greatest Generation are 63% of the registrants compared to 51% among Millennials. (Figure 21) Longer life expectancies among older women than men account for these differentials.


Gender Composition of Registrants (Figures 22-25)

v  Women make up a majority of the state’s registered voters—53% and have for decades. (Figure 22)

A plurality of women are registered Democrats(42%), whereas a plurality of men are registered Republicans (38%). (Figure 23)

A larger share of women than men registrants are minorities—Hispanics 15% v. 14%; blacks 15% v. 12%. (Figure 24)

There are few differences in the age distribution of men and women registrants. 47% of women are 50 or older compared to 46% of men. (Figure 25)


Media Market Location of Registrants (Figures 26-30)

The state’s largest media market in terms of registered voters is the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota market(24%). (Figure 26) The percentage of registrants by media market has changed very little since early 2012.

The Orlando and Tampa media markets are the most evenly divided in terms of registered Democrats and Republicans. The most heavily Democratic market is Tallahassee (55%), followed by Gainesville (45%), Miami (45%), and Palm Beach (40%). The most heavily Republican market is Pensacola (51%), followed by Panama City (45%), Naples (43%), and Jacksonville (42%). The highest concentrations of NPAs are in Miami (28%) and Naples (26%), the lowest among north Florida markets from Pensacola east to Jacksonville. NPA registrants outnumber Republicans (28% to 25%) in the large Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market. (Figure 27)

Black registration is highest in the Tallahassee (27%), Miami (20%), and Jacksonville(18%) markets. Hispanic registration is by far the highest—and the plurality—in the Miami market (38%), followed by Orlando (14%). The highest levels of white registrants are in the Panama City (86%), Naples (83%), and Pensacola (80%) markets. The two I-4 Corridor markets have the most even distributions of black and Hispanic registrants, with Orlando having a slightly higher Hispanic than black share. (Figure 28)

Naples has the largest share of registrants 65 and older(41%), followed by Palm Beach (34%), while Miami, Jacksonville, and Pensacola have slightly higher shares of registrants under 30 (each with 16%). (Figure 29)

v  There is very little difference in the gender makeup of Florida’s 10 media markets, with women making up 54% of Tallahassee market—highest, and 52% of Pensacola market—lowest. (Figure 30)



A challenge facing both major parties in 2016 leading up to the November election is to reverse the trend of losing membership to independents, especially in counties where independents have already gained significant ground. Key to that effort will be attracting voters younger than 30, including conducting voter registration drives on college campuses, which will have the benefit of increasing a party’s racial/ethnic diversity. Advertising dollars likely will go to the largest media market (Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota) as well as those markets that best fit a campaign’s target of registered voters.



Figure 2. Partisan Registration Shares Shrinking; NPA & Minor Parties Growing

Figure 3. Over One-Fourth of Registrants Not a Democrat or Republican

Figure 4. The 13 Counties Where NPA and Minor Party Voters Outnumber a Major Party

Figure 5. Republicans, Minor Parties Highest Share of White Registrants, Democrats—Blacks, and NPAs—Hispanics

Figure 6. NPAs—Majority of Registrants Under 50; Republicans, Democrats--Majority 50+

Figure 7. Female Share of Registrants Largest Among Democrats; Minority of Minor Parties

Figure 8. Party Registration Concentrations Differ by Media Market; Tampa Largest Share of Republicans, NPA, and Minor Party; Miami—Democrats

 Figure 9. One-Third of Florida’s Registered Voters are Non-White

Figure 10. Plurality of Whites—Republican; Majority of Blacks—Democrat; Hispanics—Most Diverse Registrants

 Figure 11. White Registrants Tend to be Older; Minority Registrants Younger

Figure 12. Gender Gap among All Racial/Ethnic Groups; Widest Among Blacks

Figure 13. Majority of Hispanic Registrants—Miami Market; Pluralities of Whites in Tampa Market and Blacks in Miami Market


NOTE: Generation Definitions (Pew Research Center)

Millennials: Born after 1980 (18-35 years old)

Generation X: Born 1965-1980 (36-51 years old)

The Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964 (52-70 years old)

The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945 (71-88 years old)

Greatest Generation: Born before 1928 (89+ years old)

Figure 14. 44% of Florida Voters are Under 50

Figure 15. Nearly One-Half of Registered Voters are Either Millennials or Gen-Xers

Figure 16. Younger Registrants More Likely to be NPAs; Share of Republicans Increases With Age

Figure 17. Millennials Most Likely to Register NPA, Older Generations Least So

Figure 18. Younger Registrants More Racially and Ethnically Diverse Than Older Generations

Figure 19. Millennials Most Diverse Generation, Greatest Generation Least So

Figure 20. Gender Gap Mostly Constant for All Age Groups

Figure 21. Gender Gap in Registration Highest Among Greatest Generation


Figure 22. Florida Voter Gender Gap: Women Over Half of Registered Voters

Figure 23. Women More Likely to Register Democrat; Men, Republican

Figure 24. Among Minorities, Women a Larger Share of Registrants than Men

Figure 25. Few Differences in Age Distribution of Male and Female Registered Voters


Figure 26. Almost Two-Thirds of Registrants Live in Tampa, Miami, and Orlando Media Markets

Figure 27. Tallahassee Most Democratic Market, Pensacola Most Republican; Tampa and Orlando Markets Most Evenly Split

Figure 28. Miami-Ft. Lauderdale Market is Majority Minority

Figure 29. Highest Shares of 65+ Voters in Naples and Palm Beach Markets, Under 30 Voters in Gainesville and Tallahassee Markets

Figure 30. Women Registrants Larger Share then Men in All Media Markets; Largest Edge in Tallahassee, Smallest in Pensacola

Figure 31. Largest Share of All Age Groups in Tampa Media Market; Smallest Shares in Panama City, Gainesville, and Tallahassee