What’s the million dollar question for Colorado political pundits, reporters, campaign professionals and pollsters this election cycle? If you ask the team here at Magellan Strategies it is … drum roll please … How many Colorado Republicans will turnout to vote this November? That’s right, how many registered Republicans will decide to hang in there, bite their tongue, gnash their teeth, stick with the Grand Old Party and cast a ballot? Unfortunately for Colorado Republican candidates and campaign decision makers there is a real concern that a measurable portion of likely Republican general election voters may not vote at all. For the purposes of this article we will refer to the percentage of likely Republican voters who choose not to vote as the “Republican dropoff percent”.
What was Colorado Republican Turnout in the Past Two Presidential Elections?
To understand the impact of a significant Republican dropoff percent, let’s first determine what turnout of likely Colorado Republicans would be even if Donald Trump was not the nominee by reviewing past turnout data. In the 2012 general election in Colorado, approximately 897,786 registered Republicans turned out to vote. Registration of Colorado Republicans on November 1st in 2012 according to the Secretary of State was 925,785 active and 231,588 inactive voters, for a total of 1,157,373 Republican voters. Using these figures, we can calculate a turnout percentage of 96.9% for active Republican voters and 77.5% for all registered Republicans.
To keep our voter data analysis consistent from Presidential cycle to Presidential cycle, let’s review the 2008 general election Republican turnout percentages in Colorado. Republican voter registration on November 5th, 2008 was 1,065,150 voters (numbers are not available for active and inactive), and approximately 831,408 Republicans cast a ballot in the November election. Using this data we can calculate a Republican turnout percentage of 78.0%, which is very close to the 2012 Republican turnout percentage of 77.5%. Fast forward to current Republican registration in Colorado, we find that there are 964,738 active and 173,100 inactive voters, for a total Republican voter population of 1,137,838 individuals. Taking this data into account, we can reliably project that a good “benchmark” for Republican turnout in 2016, at 78%, would be a total of 887,513 Republican voters.
What Could be Considered a Significant Republican Dropoff Percentage?
Now that we have calculated a reliable, historical Republican turnout “benchmark” of 887,513 voters, let’s put things in context. Assuming that our 887,513 number is a good projection for a typical Republican turnout, if there were a Republican Dropoff percentage of 1% , that would mean 8,875 fewer votes would be cast. A Republican Dropoff percentage of 3% would mean 26,625 fewer Republican votes cast, and a 5% dropoff would equate to 44,375 fewer votes cast. To put these numbers in perspective from a horserace standpoint, Republican Cory Gardner won the 2014 US Senate election by 39,688 votes, and Democrat Michael Bennett won the 2010 US Senate election by 28,859 votes. However, President Obama defeated both John McCain by 215,004 votes in 2008 and Mitt Romney by 137,859 votes in 2012. So any impact of the Republican Dropoff would likely be confined to down-ballot races.
Final Thoughts About Measuring Republican Dropoff
Looking ahead, measuring whether Republican voters intend to vote will undoubtedly be a moving target. We intend to measure the Republican Dropoff percentage in Colorado very closely up to Election Day on November 8th using voter surveys and aggregating ballot return data from the Colorado Secretary of State. We look forward to keeping our readers informed of our findings as this crazy election cycle continues to unfold.