Lost amid the day-to-day media coverage of the chaotic battle for the Republican Presidential nomination, and the latest activities of Hillary Clinton’s campaign is an important shift in Colorado’s voter registration trends that will likely have profound implications for the 2016 election cycle and beyond. Simply put, younger voters are choosing to distance themselves from the Republican Party more and more.
Voter registration data does not lie. Going back to 2004, we find that among Colorado voters aged 18 to 34, 43% chose to be unaffiliated, 31% Republican and 26% Democrat. Today we find that 51% of registered voters aged 18 to 34 choose to be unaffiliated, 27% choose to be a Democrat, and only 22% choose to be a Republican. Looking at this trend more in depth, the Democrat Party has been able to maintain their registration “quota” of 27% among younger voters for the past ten years. However, the Republican Party’s “quota” among younger voters has dropped 9 points, from 31% to 22%. One could argue that the 8-point increase among unaffiliated voters aged 18 to 34 comes almost entirely at the expense of the Republican Party.
There is more bad news for the Republican Party when we review voter registration trends among Colorado registered voters aged 35 to 44, whom we refer to as the “young family” demographic. Conventional wisdom suggests that as voters get older, a good portion become more conservative and choose to identify with the Republican Party. The belief is this happens when voters are touched by the impacts of starting and providing for a family, paying taxes, educating their children and watching how their tax dollars are allocated and spent by state, local and federal governments. The Colorado voter registration trends show that this notion is simply not true.
When reviewing voter registration trends among Colorado voters aged 35 to 44, we find a very similar trend that is happening among younger voters. Among voters aged 35 to 44, unaffiliated registration has jumped from 34% in 2004 to 43% in 2015, a 9-point increase. This is accompanied by a precipitous, 11-point decline among voters choosing to be a registered Republican, from 38% to 27%.
The reasons young adults are moving away from the Republican Party are debatable, but the consequences of these registration trends for Republican candidates at the ballot box are not. Simply put, if these trends continue it will be very difficult for any Republican candidate to win an election in Colorado, regardless if it is a Presidential election cycle or not.