The big question this year seems to be: Why are so many unaffiliated (UNA) voters voting early and who are they voting for? It’s not a surprising question since they are turning out in record numbers.
So far, 590,265 UNA voters have cast their ballots either at an early voting site or by mail, making up 25.57 percent of the total ballots cast as of yesterday’s numbers. Compare that to 2012, when at the same time, the UNA group had cast 411,118 ballots, making up 19.8 percent of the votes cast at that time.
While we don’t know exactly who these 590,265 voters (who don’t officially identify with either party) are voting for, the data from the March primary compared to the absentee data for this election may provide a hint.
First, we looked at the March 15, 2016 primary to get the information on the UNA voters voting in that election. In March, 166,561 UNA voters cast ballots: 88,190 (52.9 percent) voted a Republican (REP) ballot and 76,146 (45.7 percent) UNA voters cast a ballot for Democrats (DEM). The rest took an “UNA” ballot.
Looking at “enthusiasm,” of the UNA who choose DEM ballots, 69% had voted while 76% of the UNA who choose REP ballots have voted. So if this group is an indicator of the larger group of UNA who did not vote in the primary, advantage to the Republicans.
Another indicator of where the UNA voters might go was the Civitas August poll of UNA voters. It is the only poll this year of just likely UNA voters. You can see the results here.
As of yesterday’s early voting data, of the 166,561 primary voters, 122,139 (73 percent) had cast their ballots in the General Election. This high percentage number shows enthusiasm among UNA primary voters in general. But go one step further and the Republican primary voters seem to hold the turnout advantage in this group. Republicans make up 55.3 percent the 122,139 voters who have cast their ballots so far in the General Election compared to the Democrats at 43.5 percent
We will see on November 8th what all the numbers mean.