© 2023 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Poll: GOP Lost Voters After Capitol Attack

Local elections supervisors report a trend of Republicans leaving their party.

In Okaloosa, Escambia, and Santa Rosa counties, the trends of voter registration and party affiliation show a number of Republicans leaving the party in favor of identifying as No Party Affiliation (NPA) or Independent. The politically tumultuous month of January saw in all three counties an average of 297 Republican party affiliation changes, with that average leveling off to around 83.5 by April.

Thenational Gallup poll for the first quarter of 2021 mirrored local trends and showcased a significant number of voters leaving the Republican party, particularly in the months following the Jan. 6 insurrection upon the U.S. Capitol. According to the poll, 49% of voters are identifying themselves as Democrats, and only 40% as Republican.

This 9-point Democratic lead is the largest in national polls since 2012, and many political analysts attribute it largely to the insurrection. The typical Democratic advantage since 2012 has ranged from 4 to 6 points.

According to Paul Lux, supervisor of elections for Okaloosa County, the affiliation changes from Republican had an obvious tipping point.

Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections
Paul Lux

“The catalyst in the January report, clearly from the date of the changes, were the actions of the protesters on the National Mall, on January 6, that stormed the Capitol building," he said.

The large influx of voters looking to leave the Republican party, as well as the trends of voter behavior, became apparent to the Okaloosa elections office and to Lux right away.

“We literally had emails and phone calls of people changing their party, and you will see that the vast majority of what the Republicans changed to was NPAs and Independents. The lion’s share of them didn’t want to be Democrats, but they didn’t want to be associated with the Republican party any longer.”

Supervisor of Elections for Santa Rosa County Tappie A. Villane agrees.

“I’d have to agree with Paul Lux, I mean it does sound like local numbers are in line with the national trend.”

However, Villane posits another potential explanation.

“Party changes are very common prior to an election cycle," she said. "Especially here in Florida, no matter what year we are talking about because we are a closed primary state ... many times voters might have to change their party affiliation depending on what type of ballot style they want to vote on.”

Florida, being a closed-primary state, means that voters must be registered in a specific party to vote in Democratic or Republican primary elections. This implies that a contributing factor to the January influx might be that some voters were simply switching back to their preferred party after voting in the 2020 presidential primary election. Villane was hesitant to attribute the influx entirely to the Jan. 6 insurrection and emphasized that these local trends aren’t entirely unusual.

Santa Rosa County
Tappie Villane

“You can see in January we had a lot of party changes, but I can’t speak to whether that was correlated with what was going on nationally, again it isn’t unusual to see people changing parties.”

David Stafford, supervisor of elections for Escambia County, affirmed the trends recognized by other local election supervisors.

“We certainly saw an increased number of party changes in January," he said. "While it's impossible to know why each and every person changed their party affiliation in January, you would have to believe that at least some of it had to do with the activities in Washington, D.C., and around the country around that time.”

The Chairman of the Escambia County Republican Party, John Roberts, weighed in on the trends.

“I think we (the Republican party) are doing well. Overall since the last election things are getting better, not worse. We’ve seen the numbers of the Republican party members growing versus the number of Democrats.”

The Chairwoman of Okaloosa Democrats, Tracy Tapp said “The trends are consistent with what we have seen at voter registration events this year. We have noticed a shift away from Republican and toward No Party Affiliation.”

Faith in the U.S. electoral process was shaken for many Americans during 2020, and a lack of faith in that process proved to be an important motivator for many of the protesters on Jan. 6. Additionally, the 2020 presidential election encouraged the creation of new voter legislation across states hoping to revise practices and gain back voter trust, such as Senate Bill 90 that was passed in Florida in early May.

David Stafford

SB90 aims to remedy potential issues in the election process and has proven controversial. As a result, a lawsuit that involves all supervisors of elections in Florida has been filed in the Tallahassee District Court. This leaves local supervisors of elections unable to comment on SB90, a bill that many see as a direct reaction to the 2020 presidential election.

Local supervisors of elections maintained that the 2020 Florida election was one of the most successful in recent memory, and all of them advocated for transparency within the system to help ease voter concerns.

Villane proposes an antidote for anyone with concerns about the inner workings of the election process and the validity of the results.

“I always invite people over to the office to see what we do,” she said “If we are in the middle of an election cycle, I put them to work. Help us out in the office, that is the best way to learn. The best way to learn is to become a part of the process.”