…increasing turnout in a Republican primary isn’t the same as drawing new people into the GOP. A large majority of voters every year sit out the primaries, so increased primary turnout usually means exciting existing partisans, not creating new ones. Exit polls indicate that’s what has happened this year, as in previous turnout surges in both parties.
Late last month, the Massachusetts secretary of state got a lot of attention by reporting that about 16,000 people had changed their registration from Democratic to Republican in the weeks before the state’s primary. But that’s hardly millions, nor is it unprecedented. The share of voters in that state’s GOP primary who identified themselves as Democrats on the exit poll was 5% this year, was almost identical to the 4% from four years ago.
In Iowa’s caucuses this year, Trump clearly did well with first-time participants. The share of voters taking part in the state’s caucuses for the first time rose from 38% in the 2012 exit poll to 45% in 2016, and Trump won the first-timers handily. In New Hampshire, by contrast, the 15% of voters casting a GOP primary ballot for the first time this year was only marginally higher than the 12% four years ago, and Trump’s share of their votes, 38%, was only slightly better than the 35% he got among repeat voters.
In most localities, Super Tuesday was less of a motivating factor for new registrations compared to 2008, the last year both parties held contested presidential primaries on the same date. There were 56,943 new voter registrations in January and February, compared to 65,724 during the same period eight years ago.
We could go on and on, but you get the idea…there’s simply no truth to Trump’s claim that he’s bringing out reams of new voters, certainly not here in Virginia. To the contrary, if anything it appears that new voter registration was way DOWN in areas of Virginia where Trump did particularly well. Yeah, things that make you go “hmmmm.”