TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Roughly a third of all Florida voters fall outside the spectrum of the traditional two parties in the United States. There are 14.5 million voters in Florida, and about 4 million of them have avoided declaring allegiance to either Democrats or Republicans in 2022.
Still, political analysts in Florida expect them to skew the race toward Republican incumbents.
Florida also happens to be a closed primary state, meaning that voters who are not members of a political party, or the major ones, cannot vote in primary elections without their party on the ballot.
However, all voters can cast ballots in the general elections, such as Tuesday’s midterm.
The number of No Party Affiliation and Minor Party voters has grown every year since 2017. As a result, almost 30% of Florida voters did not participate in the midterm primaries because they were not represented by Democratic or Republican candidates on their August ballots.
According to the Florida Department of State, which manages elections, Florida’s number of independent or NPA voters has increased 13.2% since 2017, growing from 3.45 million to almost 4 million in 2022. It’s had an effect on how red or blue different Florida counties have become compared to the 2020 election.
As far as impact of unaffiliated voters, some political analysts expect it will be an advantage for both Republican incumbents, Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
The independent voters are “likely [to] help the DeSantis re-election effort since what we seem to be seeing nationally is a strong support for Republicans,” Dr. Rob Mellen Jr., Assistant Professor of Instruction/Political Science at the University of South Florida told WFLA.com. “I do not see any evidence here in Florida that would suggest a different outcome. The bigger question is whether some of them will bother to vote at all. If only those with higher levels of interest vote, they will probably also lean Republican.”
Combined with the minor party voters, which on their own have grown by almost 75%, the voters in Florida who don’t ally with either Republicans or Democrats is up about 17% since 2017.
The growth of NPA voters accompanies an increasingly polarized political culture. Recent polling by USF found respondents feel unrepresented by either major party.
“Less than half of Floridians say that they have a favorable view of the Democratic or Republican party (41% and 43% respectively),” USF reported in its poll. “In each case, only 38% of respondents felt that either party was representative of ‘moderate’ voters.”
Almost 20% of those who took the survey said the Democratic Party is catering to its most extreme voters. An even higher portion of the respondents, 30%, said the same about the Republican party. The respondents who felt both major political parties weren’t representing them weren’t alone.
In January, Gallup Poll found the number of Americans who identified as independent voters had grown to its largest level since 1991, when the research organization began “regularly” studying voters by partisan leanings.
Gallup reported that as of 2021, 42% of Americans say they’re independent voters.
“The broader trend toward an increasing share of political independents has been clear over the past decade, with more Americans viewing themselves as independents than did so in the late 1980s through 2000s,” Gallup reported. “At least four in 10 Americans have considered themselves independents in all years since 2011, except for the 2016 and 2020 presidential election years.”
However, in Florida, the number of independent voters is smaller, at roughly 29% instead.
|Registration Year||Republican Party of Florida||Florida Democratic Party||Minor Parties||No Party Affiliation||Total Registered Voters|
Paired with the increase in registered voters in all parties and affiliations, Florida’s number of voters removed from the rolls actually decreased. Still, the voter roll updates by the Department of State show that following the 2020 election, the number of new voters added each year has shrunk.
|Removal Year||New Voters||Removed Active Voters||Removed Inactive Voters|
Dr. Michael Binder at the University of North Florida faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida, said the independent voters in Florida are unlikely to change the outcome of the election, and that “many of them won’t vote at all.”
Binder also said that a number of no party voters may be “closet” partisans instead.
“Even though almost 30% of registered voters are NPA/others, less than 20% of the people that have voted so far during this election are NPAs. The NPA party registrants are a varied group in Florida,” Binder told WFLA.com. “Some are obviously disenchanted with each of the major parties, but many – particularly the ones that show up and vote – are really just closet partisans. They’ll tend to vote for the same party the vast majority of the time.”