Voters unenrolled in a political party make up the majority registered voters in Massachusetts, and trends from Millennials suggest that unaffiliated segment is only growing in size.
A recent analysis from Commonwealth Magazine shows the increase in voters unenrolled in a political party in stark figures. The graph above shows the number of voters registered for each political party from 1948-2012. While the blue Democrat and red Republican lines stay relatively flat, the green line of Unenrolled shows a rapid rise, particularly over the past 35 years. Since 1978, the number of unenrolled voters has almost doubled, Commonwealth notes, while the Democrat and Republican parties have stagnated with just 9 percent increases.
Keep in mind that these are raw numbers of registered voters, and come amid a 16 percent increase in the Massachusetts population from ‘78-’12. The state’s population increase in that time has not significantly aided either political party’s rolls.
The departure from established political parties is growing even more notable among young people. Among voters under 22, 60 percent did not enroll in a political party. That aversion to both parties is evident in a recent Pew study, which found that Millennials see fewer differences in what the Republican and Democratic parties stand for. That study also found that half of Millennials consider themselves political independents in 2014, up from 40 percent in 2007. Massachusetts huge swath of unenrolled young people is a reflection of the broader movement.
This non-affiliation means that although young people vote with the Democratic party at the moment, they may not have a long-standing belief in their party’s cause. A Republican party that takes up some young-favored positions could potentially gain ground among Millennials, a message trumpeted by David Leonhardt in The New York Times this morning.
Finally, it’s notable that third parties have failed to use this departure from the two-party system to their advantage. Third-party membership remains just as low now as it ever did – which is to say, so miniscule as to be largely forgettable. Massachusetts voters aren’t flocking toward a new party as much as they are leaving the party system entirely.