In California, Democratic voter registration numbers spiked when the presumptive GOP nominee dominated the news cycle.
When the deadline to register to vote in California’s June 7 primary closes Monday evening, Democrats are expected to be the big winners. The party has enjoyed a dramatic spike in registration since the beginning of the year — and they have Donald Trump to thank for it.
In the first three months of the year, California added 1.5 million new voters through the end of April — double the number of new voters added during the same time period in 2012. And the total number of registered Democrats increased by nearly 100,000 people between the beginning of January and the beginning of April — compared to a gain of just 15,000 registered Republicans, according to an analysis from Political Data Inc., a California-based voting analytics firm.
Paul Mitchell, Political Data’s vice president, notes that Democratic registration typically increased when the news cycle revolved around Donald Trump.
“What’s interesting is that the upticks have been greatest among Democrats and Latinos on those days where Donald Trump is kind of dominating the conversation,” said Mitchell, a former Democratic consultant who has analyzed California voter registration from day to day and by party affiliation since January.
California isn’t considered a state that will be in play in November — the Democratic nominee is expected to carry it easily — but the voter registration data could herald trouble in other states where there is a significant Latino population: Mitchell’s analysis found a significant increase in registration among Latino voters, a 123 percent growth rate over the same period in 2012.
Democratic leaders and campaign officials attribute that to Trump’s comments about Mexico sending drugs and criminals into the country illegally.
“To many people this campaign has become very personal. There’s a crusade involved to many people. And there’s an effort to prove Donald Trump wrong and this has taken on a different dimension for a lot of voters,” California Rep. Xavier Becerra, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said in an interview with POLITICO on Monday. “There are no guarantees, but this could be a harbinger of what happened with a lot of folks who are already registered but not necessarily frequent voters. This could signal a wave that’s coming. It could mean it’s a change election. I suspect it’s not just in the state of California where this is being felt.”
Becerra added: “Sometimes you need something to make people want to get out there, and here you have the case of this election where I think it’s become a very personal experience for a lot of people.”
On March 1, when Trump won seven of the 11 Super Tuesday states that voted, just over 14,000 Democrats registered to vote in California compared to 4,000 Republicans. Similarly, when Trump threatened to drop out of a CNN debate on March 29, Democratic voter registration again surged by more than 14,000 people while GOP registration jumped by almost 6,000, according to Mitchell’s analysis.
“Registration has been strongest on days that have been big on the national stage. Super Tuesday was one of our biggest days of voter registration. The New York primary was a huge day of voter registration,” Mitchell explained, pointing out that on April 19, when Trump posted a landslide win in New York, Democratic registration in California spiked by over 16,000 people while the Republican total increased by only 8,000.
While Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are rallying supporters to register, Mitchell said, Trump’s media presence eclipses them.
“It’s not to say anything negative about Bernie, it’s just to say Trump’s media saturation is overwhelming and particularly on those days where you see the spikes in voter registration,” Mitchell said. “There’s been on those days an overwhelming media narrative around Trump and overwhelming conversation online around Trump. So, yes, it might be Trump spikes the conversation, the implicit answer is Bernie or Hillary, and so they go register to vote, but it’s easy to draw this correlation to the Trump narrative.”
Reed Galen, a former top adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign who also served as deputy campaign manager for Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger’s successful California gubernatorial campaign, was more direct.
“If you are sitting at home, and you are unregistered Latino in California, and you watch Donald Trump win New York by 50 points or whatever saying all these things,” he said, “you’re like, ‘Well, I’m not going to sit around anymore,’” Galen said.
According to figures from the California secretary of state through April 8, 44 percent of registered voters were Democrats, 28 percent were Republicans and 24 percent registered as No Party Preference. For the GOP, the registration figures continued an ongoing slide — as recently as January 2004, 36 percent of voters registered as Republicans.